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Suriname: Demonstrators storm Parliament building

February 17, 2023
Photo: Ranu Abhelakh/AFP

CMC – President Chandrikapersad “Chan” Santokhi Friday warned that his government would not tolerate any indiscipline in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country after police used teargas to disperse demonstrators, who gathered outside the Parliament building demanding his administration reverse its policies that have led to the removal of subsidies on a number of items including fuel.

“The government of Suriname condemns the destruction committed today in the most serious terms. The government will under no circumstances tolerate that the rule of law and democratic institutions in our beloved Suriname are affected by actions of individuals or in an organized context.

“We condemn and reject in the strongest terms what has taken place today in and around The National Assembly. Buildings and spaces of the House of Democracy have been reported to have been forcibly entered, causing destruction. Vigorous action will be taken against those who instructed, carried out and caused these attacks,” the government said in a statement.

It said it has established a special Task Force, whose task it is to locate, apprehend and hand over to the judicial authorities as soon as possible those responsible for these actions.

“Destruction and attempted arson at shops and other buildings is also unacceptable. The government attaches great importance to fundamental freedoms, including demonstration and protest, but these must take place in an orderly and peaceful manner.

“Escalation in illegal actions, such as smashing windows, theft and vandalism, is not acceptable. The leaders of these protests will also be summoned for questioning.”

The statement said that the government will continue to keep the community informed of developments in this regard.

“Peace and order are guaranteed by the government. Violators will be dealt with immediately and firmly. The government has taken special measures to ensure the safety of citizens,” it added.

Earlier this month, the  government said it save approximately US$10.9 million annually on hydro and thermal energy as it moves to phase out electricity and gas subsidies.

Natural Resources Minister, David Abiamofo , told the National Assembly on Thursday that new electricity tariffs, which had been introduced in 2021 would be phased out in three phases within two years.

“At present circumstances, that subsidy will reach a level of SRD3.2 billion (One SRD=US$0.03 cents) in 2023. An increase and a heavy burden on the government budget,” Abiamofo said, adding that proposals by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would result in an increase in the price for the commodity in four phases by 20 per cent each time.

But the protestors are also calling from the removal of President Chandrikapersad “Chan” Santokhi chanting “Chan go home” as well as Vice President Ronnie Brunswijk

At one stage during the protest, the demonstrators stormed the the Parliament Assembly building, breaking windows and also looting several stores nearby.

Police fired tear gas and also fired blanks as they attempted to crack down on the protest and some persons who remained in Independence Square, threw bottles and flower pots at the police and the building.

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