BASS's operations will be reviewed after probe --Jagdeo

Stabroek News
August 24, 2001

The future of the Berbice Anti-Smuggling Squad (BASS) would be reviewed after the investigations into the deadly events of Tuesday, August 14 and Friday, August 17, have been completed, President Bharrat Jagdeo said yesterday.

He told a press conference at the Office of the President: "one thing for sure that we will need in Berbice is a strong presence along the border given the smuggling of guns, drugs and illegal immigrants and it is becoming a problem because of the downturn in the economy of Suriname." As to what form that presence would take, he said that it was too early to determine.

He said that there had been a number of cases where drugs and small arms were found on people travelling from Suriname, and cases where illegal immigrants had been intercepted. "...We have to take safeguards against these issues." President Jagdeo said that these activities could undermine national security as well as contribute to increasing the crime rate.

Commenting on the investigations, President Jagdeo said that since his return from Chile, he had heard various versions of what had taken place on the two occasions and the investigations were to allow him to get to the truth. He stressed that he would take no position until he received the results of the investigations.

He said he had assured the relatives that they would be able to participate in the investigations to give their version of events.

Asked about the possibility of BASS being disbanded or the suspension of those involved in the shooting, pending the result of the probe, President Jagdeo said that he understood that some of the BASS members were already not on active duty. But he said that he would rather await the outcome of the investigations before any decisions were taken.

And in a related issue, President Jagdeo said he was still willing to meet the relatives of Azad Bacchus, who along with his 15-year-old son and 18-year-old nephew was killed by BASS operatives on August 14. He said that the relatives did not turn up for the meeting on Wednesday with the relatives of those who had been killed or injured as a result of the incidents on August 14 and 17. BASS operatives killed five persons in the two incidents on August 14 and 17; and three persons died in a road accident when an ambulance taking injured persons from the incident on August 17 overturned. BASS operatives had fired on a crowd of protesters who surrounded and stoned their Springlands headquarters, injuring a number of persons.

President Jagdeo confirmed that the government was willing to have another autopsy on the bodies of Bacchus, his son and nephew if that was the relatives' desire.

About the relatives of the accident victims, President Jagdeo said that he was due to meet them again next week to look at arrangements for taking care of any children whose parents were killed in the accident. At the Wednesday meeting, President Jagdeo assured the relatives that the government would stand the funeral expenses of the victims of the road accident.