Suriname clamps down on protesters following violent demonstration

People protest against government economic policies in Paramaribo. Photo: Ranu Abhelakh AFP
People protest against government economic policies in Paramaribo. Photo: Ranu Abhelakh AFP

Police have arrested 119 people following a demonstration in the Surinamese capital Paramaribo on Friday, which culminated in the storming of the parliament building and left 26 people needing medical care, Surinamese and Dutch media reported at the weekend.

The protest, which started peacefully, attracted thousands of people angry about the economic situation in the former Dutch colony.

‘People in Suriname have been angry for a long time. Inflation is spiralling and prices are going through the roof,’ NOS Suriname correspondent Nina Jurna said.

There is also anger about a number of political nominations made by president Chan Santokhi, who came to power in 2020. Santhokhi gave important government jobs to relatives, causing one party to leave the coalition in protest.

‘Promises of economic improvement have not been kept and people are desperate. But the violence and looting that we have seen is a step too far for many people in Surniname. It’s a certain group that did this. We have seen how people attack democratic institutions in the United States and Brazil but nobody would have imagined it would happen in Suriname,’ Jurna said.

Journalist Amanda Palis of Surinamese news outlet Key News said Santokhi’s days in power may be numbered. ‘People are fed up with his empty promises. It seems they are no longer prepared to give him the time to mend the economy,’ Palis tols RTL Nieuws.

Surinamese political parties have condemned the riots and have called for sanctions for looters. President Santokhi called the storming of the Assembleegebouw a ‘serious breach of democratic order’ and has ordered a special taskforce to locate the perpetrators.

The president and vice-president Ronnie Brunswijk have said shops, schools and petrol stations are to open as normal on Monday and called on people to obey the government’s instructions. ‘We don’t want to lose anyone. It’s about our people and we do not want this sort of thing to happen to us,’ online paper Waterkant quoted Brunswijk as saying.

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