After yesterday’s riots in the Surinamese capital Paramaribo, the police arrested at least fifty people and injured twenty people. That happened after a peaceful anti-government protest got out of hand.
Protesters broke into the parliament building, threw stones and destroyed the building’s entrance hall. And there were riots in other places as well. Until 6 a.m. Surinamese time, 10 a.m. Dutch time, a curfew applied in the center of Paramaribo.
Demonstrations have been held in Suriname before, but why did this demonstration get so out of hand? Five questions and answers about the riots in Paramaribo.
Where does the dissatisfaction of the Surinamese come from?
“They have been angry for a long time that there is actually no improvement in the situation in Suriname,” says correspondent Nina Jurna in Met het Oog op Morgen. She refers to, among other things, the economic situation and the enormous inflation in the country. “Prices are skyrocketing in stores.”
“In addition, there are also the political appointments,” says Jurna. “We have often talked about the favoritism that the Santokhi-Brunswijk government is unfortunately also guilty of.” For example, Santokhi appointed family members to several important positions. This week, another party left the coalition out of dissatisfaction.
“People see no improvement and are desperate,” says Jurna. “But the fact that things are now getting out of hand in this way, with violence and destruction, is going too far for many protesters who wanted to demonstrate peacefully. It is a certain group that has now caused this.”
NOS editor Lena van Dijk, now working at the Surinamese Youth News, has also been hearing the same sounds for months. “People say it can’t go on like this,” she says in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal.
How could this demonstration get so out of hand?
According to Jurna, there are often heated demonstrations, but she has never experienced anything like this, she says in NOS Met het Oog op Morgen. “We have seen in the past year in the US and Brazil how democratic institutions are attacked. This is actually unreal for Suriname.”
The windows of shops were smashed:
Jan Peter Kalkman
Many people are just working in the store while #looting starts in #Paramaribo during a protest against the government. #suriname
February 17, 2023
Roy Khemradj, journalist and Suriname expert, also mentions the storming of the Capitol and Brazilian government buildings. He thinks the rioters may have been inspired by those events. “This is unprecedented for Suriname,” he says in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal. “Peaceful and massive demonstrations have often taken place during the reign of President Santokhi. The president also managed to talk to the activists, but this is a completely different development that I have not known in Suriname before.”
Starnieuws reports that the protest, which had been announced earlier, could derail because the police took action too late. “Information was known in advance that troublemakers would mingle with the crowd to disrupt order,” the news site writes. “If the situation had been sufficiently anticipated, the rioters would not have been able to storm the Assembly building.”
What kind of people did the group of demonstrators consist of?
They included activists, says Jurna. But also about “a lot of dissatisfied and angry citizens and also people from the trade unions”.
How is Surinamese politics responding to the riots?
Surinamese politicians disapprove of 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”.
President Santokhi called the disturbances “a serious breach of the democratic order”.
The police are asking everyone to stay indoors today, and shops and markets in the city center will remain closed. There is also extra security on the street.
“I have the impression that things have calmed down now,” says Khemradj. “Certainly at the weekend there will be no calls to take to the streets again.”
The president also set up a task force. That includes the military. It will track down people who have committed serious crimes.
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