Riot police in Suriname detained several individuals, including a union leader, during anti-government protests in the capital Paramaribo on Tuesday.
At the fourth demonstration so far this month, the protestors, chanting anti-government slogans, called for the resignation of president Dei Bouterse and urged the Government to stop its “policies of destruction”.
Although smaller in numbers than the previous demonstrations – the protesters vowed to continue their rallies until the recent price hike for fuel has been revoked and government freeze proposed measures which would cause more hardship for the people.
President of the Progressive Workers Union (PWO) Armand Zunder said that since 2012, union leaders have warned the Government to change its policies, keep prices under control and prevent inflation and devaluation of the country’s currency to prevent erosion of the spending power of workers.
“The government didn’t listen but instead continued its destructive policies, resulting in an economic crisis,” Zunder told the gathering.
The union leader argued that instead of pilfering the hard fought earnings of workers the Government should renegotiate deals it struck with multinationals Iamgold and Newmont in order for these companies to contribute more to the state coffers.
Shortly afterwards demonstrators who took to the streets were confronted by riot police, barring them from continuing the street march.
Disgruntled participants sat on the road to protest against the barrier, but they circumvented the blockade and took an alternative route to continue their march.
However, at a crucial traffic junction downtown protesters were barred by police and eventually three individuals, including Curtis Hofwijks, leader of the protest movement.‘
The crowd subsequently dispersed and after the formal closing of the protest, Wilgo Valies, president of the Teacher’s Union, was arrested by police officers after he gave a speech calling citizens to join fresh protests.
“If we accept that individuals who are demonstrating peacefully are being arrested and detained by the authorities we open the floodgates for dictatorship,” the union leader said. According to District Commissioner of Paramaribo Mike Nerkust, organisers of the protest didn’t have a permit.
“They didn’t even seek one, which led to the conclusion that the organisers were aiming for chaos and disturbance of order and peace,” Nerkust said on state-owned Radio SRS.
He added that if organisers had appled for a licence, the police force would provide security during the march in order to prevent calamities and keep the order.