Suriname’s capital under curfew after day of violent protest

Last Updated on Friday, 17 February 2023, 23:54 by Denis Chabrol

Tear smoke outside the National Assembly Building, Paramaribo, Suriname (Starnieuws picture)

Surinamese authorities on Friday imposed a 6 PM to 6 AM curfew in the capital, Paramaribo, where thousands of persons poured out on the streets earlier in the day to protest spiralling cost of living, authorities said.

“Due to the situation in the country, the community is urged to avoid the inner city and busy locations. The units patrol the city to restore order and peace in society. The city center is closed off and will be inaccessible in the coming period,” government said in a statement. Retailers were told to keep their businesses closed in the interest of general safety, their safety and that of their customers and staff.

At least one protester was shot dead, and a journalist’s car was burnt by protesters who vented their anger at government’s removal of subsidies, rising prices and the declining value of the Suriname dollar (SRD). Official estimates were that at least 20 persons were injured but they were expected to survive.

In the wake of the invasion and damage to the National Assembly building by protesters and theft from several businesses in the city centre, government said 50 persons had so far been arrested.  The United States (US) condemned the attack on parliament, saying that it was a direct strike at democracy. “We support the right to peaceful protest and respect for the rule of law,” the US embassy said in a statement.

Police earlier Friday fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters but they later regrouped to vent their anger and demand that President Chandrikapersad Santokhi and Vice President Ronnie Brunswijk resign.

The opposition National Democratic Party (NDP) of former President Desi Bouterse blamed the government for the escalation of the peaceful protest to unrest, saying that the Santokhi-led administration had refused to hold talks with disaffected persons. “The party regrets that the intended peaceful protest action did not get enough progress and unfortunately turned into rowdiness, in which civilians were injured and property of third parties was destroyed and stolen. The party therefore expresses deep sympathy for the injured and affected entrepreneurs,” the NDP said in a statement.

The government’s major coalition partner, Santokhi’s Progressive Reform Party, formerly known as the United Hindustani Party and the Vatan Hitkari Party (VHP), on Friday said the leaders of the protest abandoned the activity in a well-planned and orchestrated attack. “It is very clear that a scenario was written in advance, how the protest actions had to be carried out in order to cause as much damage as possible to property and thus destabilize the country and plunge it into chaos

The cowardly rioters have come prepared with one goal and that is to create chaos in view of the stones and bottles they brought with them. The various video images clearly show that they were well armed. It is also to be expected that they will try to further increase these actions. We must be prepared for the worst, the VHP said.