CARICOM condemns storming of Parliament in Suriname

CARICOM condemns storming of Parliament in Suriname

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have condemned the action of protestors in Suriname who stormed the Parliament in the Dutch-speaking CARICOM country on Friday in a bid to force the government to reverse its socio-economic policies.

Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his Barbadian counterpart, Mia Mottley, told a news conference at the end of the 44th regular summit of CARICOM that the regional leaders had issued a statement on the matter.

“We stand in solidarity in recognising the democratically elected government led by President (Chandrikapersad) Santokhi and we do hope that all actors can respect the rule of law and respect people’s right to move freely,” Prime Minister Skerrit told reporters.

‘We certainly condemn the storming of the Parliament. It appears that this is becoming a practice in our hemisphere and it is something that we all need to seek to condemn and to stamp out in our hemisphere.”

Skerrit said that the regional leaders were calling for “calm and the restoration of peace and order and allow for dialogue to take place and the issues among the Surinamese people can be addressed in a respectful lawful manner.

“We call on all to respect the rule of law and to maintain the rule of law in Suriname,” Skerrit added.

Mottley said what has occurred in Suriname on Friday “is most unfortunate” adding “people can express their views but there is no excuse for violence in any manner, form or fashion.

“And to the extent that persons have been injured and to the extent that property has been damaged, the ultimate loss is also the stability of the country,” she said, joining Skerrit in calling for peace and stability in the Dutch-speaking CARICOM country.

“It is unacceptable for anybody to be putting people’s lives at risk,” Mottley said.

In its statement, CARICOM said it had received a report from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation of Suriname, Albert Ramdin, on the ongoing disturbances in that country.

“CARICOM reaffirms its support for the democratically elected Government of Suriname under the leadership of President Chandrikapersad Santokhi,” the statement said, adding that the leaders had also “strongly condemned the violent attacks on people as well as private and public facilities including the parliament.

“CARICOM stands in solidarity with all law abiding citizens of Suriname and urges all concerned to make every effort to maintain public safety. All efforts must be made to restore calm as a matter of urgency.”

Santokhi Friday warned that his government would not tolerate any indiscipline 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 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 Santokhi chanting “Chan go home” as well as Vice President Ronnie Brunswijk.

At one stage during the protest, the demonstrators stormed 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.

  • PublishedFebruary 18, 2023

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