PNC/R repeats call for BASS dismantling
ROAR urges suspension of officers pending probe

Stabroek News
August 23, 2001

In the wake of the killings on the Corentyne, the PNC/R has called again for the dismantling of the Berbice Anti-Smuggling Squad (BASS) while the ROAR Guyana Movement is urging the immediate suspension of the officers and their supervisors pending the results of the probe into their actions.

Last week Tuesday, notorious criminal Azad Bacchus, his 15-year-old son Shaazah and 18-year-old nephew Fadil Ally were killed by BASS operatives in hotly disputed circumstances. BASS and the Guyana Police Force have said they died in a confrontation with BASS while the relatives of the trio have said that they were shot in cold blood. Following this incident, two persons, 48-year-old Steven Angel and 18-year-old Saif Ghani were shot dead and several others injured by BASS operatives when a hostile crowd gathered outside the BASS headquarters on Friday.

The PNC REFORM (PNC/R) in a statement on Tuesday in addition to calling for the shutting down of BASS said that in the interim the members involved in the killings should be suspended pending a proper investigation.

However, it said an investigation by the Guyana Police Force "will be worse than useless" and called on the government to request the assistance of the Canadian, United Kingdom or American governments in "mounting a thorough, impartial professional investigation into these sad events on the Corentyne, with a view to identifying those who are criminally culpable and bringing them to justice".

The PNC/R charged that for years BASS has ridden roughshod over the constitutional rights and liberties of Corentyne citizens. It said that numerous civil actions have been brought against BASS members but these have languished in the court's Registry.

A serious question that has to be answered, the PNC/R said, was how BASS was so heavily armed for an organisation entrusted with enforcing customs regulations?

The party also pointed out the contradictions between the official versions of the killings by BASS and the accounts rendered by relatives and others. This, it said, necessitates a thorough professional inquiry.

ROAR in its statement on Tuesday voiced concern over the killings by BASS and the unrest that followed and said these were a clear indication that all is not well. The group said it also indicates the dangerous trend of law enforcers using deadly force against citizens without clear reason.

After working with the residents in the Upper Corentyne over the past few days, ROAR is calling for an immediate coroner's inquest into the BASS killings, immediate suspension of the officers involved and their supervisors pending the results of the investigation. an order from the PPP/Civic administration to the police not to use deadly force against any Guyanese unless life is threatened and full compensation for all those who suffered loss of property or bodily harm in the incidents. ROAR also wants a review of the operations and objectives of BASS and a full and independent investigation of the shooting of Mohamed Shamshudeen Haniff who died earlier this year when police shot at a crowd protesting over rampant crime outside of the Albion Police Station.