Protesters Invade Government Offices

PARAMARIBO, Suriname – Protesters entered the compound of the Ministry of Education here, occupying the premises for some time after a failed invasion at the headquarters of the country’s Tax Department on Monday.

For the third consecutive day, several thousand people took to the streets to protest against the Desi Bouterse administration, which they have accused of mismanaging the economy.

While the demonstrations are being organised by trade unions, the rallies are widely supported by the private sector, civil groups and opposition parties.

The protests are the result of the recent increase in fuel prices by the government that the organisers say have had a negative effect on the prices of all goods and services in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

They complain that they can’t meet their regular expenses anymore based on their existing salaries.

Some of the protesters demanded that if the increase in fuel prices is not reversed and if there’s no change in the government’s policy Bouterse should resign.

Robby Berenstein, coordinator at RAVAKSUR, an umbrella organisation of trade union federations, demanded that the government put an end to its socio-economic policies which he said are squeezing the life out of the people.

He said the government should be looking to get its revenue from the gold and mining sectors and not from the ordinary citizen.

“Go get the money where it is,” the union leader said, accusing the government of turning a blind eye to the sector because of its interests.

President Bouterse last weekend held talks with several disgruntled members of his NDP-party who have openly criticised his policy during the demonstrations.

On Monday, the protestors tried to enter the Tax Department but police, security personnel and military officers were able to prevent them from doing so.

A scuffle between several protesters and the guards almost escalated into chaos but tension were contained and the march proceeded to the Ministry of Education where the security officials were unprepared for the protestors.

President of the Teacher’s Union, Wilgo Valies, called on Education Minister, Robert Peneux, to stop intimidating teachers.

“Let it be clear. If you don’t stop, we will come and get you”, Valies said cheered on by demonstrators.

Last week the minister issued a directive that teachers who participated in the rallies will not get paid.

Peneux said teachers have no reason to demonstrate since they recently got a salary increase of at least SRD 500 (US$65).

The union leaders have announced a temporary halt of the rallies and demonstrations so as to allow citizens to participate in the Holy Week and Easter activities.

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