The Surinamese police arrested at least fifty demonstrators during yesterday’s riots in the capital Paramaribo. Twenty people were injured in the storming of the parliament building and other disturbances, authorities say.
Shop windows were smashed in other places in the city. A gas station was also looted. In response, the government of President Santokhi has imposed a curfew: the center of Paramaribo is closed until 10 a.m. Dutch time. The police are asking everyone to stay indoors. Shops and markets will remain closed today.
The riots started after an anti-government protest in the morning that attracted thousands of people. The organizers of the demonstration are said to have lost control of the crowd. The lobby of the parliament building was destroyed and windows were broken. Police fired tear gas and blanks to disperse the crowd.
President Santokhi responds to the riots and more protests cannot be ruled out:
“It happened quite unexpectedly,” says NOS editor Lena van Dijk in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal. She was working at the parliament building when the atmosphere changed. “The atmosphere was very pleasant at first. We were filming for the Surinamese Youth News and there were also many children and young people. So the atmosphere was good, but at a certain point many protesters wanted politicians to come out.”
When that didn’t happen, people started throwing stones, says Van Dijk. After the warning shots and the tear gas from the police, the atmosphere changed completely, according to her. “People panicked,” she says. “Many journalists also breathed tear gas, my colleagues and I too. That was very bad. We went to the side. Many people ran away from the square in panic. A number of people therefore stayed and stormed the parliament building.”
Several political parties have condemned the riots. “Our beloved Suriname has no interest in unrest,” says the General Liberation and Development Party ABOP. The Progressive Reform Party wants tough measures against looters and the National Democratic Party expresses “deep condolences to the injured and affected entrepreneurs”.
Parliament President Marinus Bee says in response to the violence that “populating the streets by mutinous and plundering does not ensure that the Surinamese economy becomes healthy”. He calls on people who disagree with the government to “express their displeasure in a civilized way from now on”. President Santokhi yesterday called the disturbances “far and far outside the rules of the democratic game” and “a serious breach of the democratic order”.
The demonstrators believe that President Santokhi and Vice President Brunswijk are not keeping their election promises and demand their departure. From his predecessor Bouterse, the president inherited an empty state treasury, a sky-high debt and a deep-rooted corruption problem.
In addition, there is high inflation and increased prices for fuel, gas bottles and food, among other things. In addition, there is anger because Santokhi has appointed relatives to several important positions.
During the riots, journalists have been threatened and attacked. For example, the car of an editor of Starnieuws was set on fire when he was reporting live at the parliament building and the telephone of another journalist was stolen.
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