Posted on | mei 14, 2012 | No Comments
The irony of history is its prophetic quality, its repetitiveness, a characteristic often forgotten, ignored by those who want to bury their not so squeaky clean past. Let me explain the aforementioned position by placing it against the backdrop of the Surinamese contemporary, before continuing my argumentation. After the presidential elections in Suriname in the summer of 2010, many people felt that the new president deserved a chance, that his intents to forge change Obama style were sincere. The boyish, ‘waka-man’ stirred the emotions of people, because his language that diametrically opposed that of the incumbency, who struggled to find the right tone during the campaign. People continued to give the Bouterse administration the benefit of the doubt, even after the first signs of bad governance, self-aggrandizing and corruption came to light. For example many people were repulsed by the fact that the President through special provision awarded his wife, the First Lady a substantial salary for ‘merely’ standing behind her man, they however did not voice their discontent.
Many people also ‘forgave’ the president for not stepping between feuding cabinet members, for not asking that his personal friend and minister of Public Affairs suspend the renovations in his office, costing taxpayers more than 100,000 USD. People also turned a blind eye to excessive traveling by the president, his colleagues and members of parliament (both opposition and coalition), but more importantly people elected not to challenge the government, by for example,
- either criticizing the rapid decline of the standard of living because of added value tax on gasoline,
- decrying the subsequent high inflation and raising of the prices
- demand the trued when government resorted to spinning to mask the failure to make good on campaign promises.
The Bouterse administration consistently pushed the envelope a little further, counting on public docility, bending the boundaries of democracy ever so slightly, up to the point where it became relatively easy to sell the story that Amnesty would give Suriname its much needed and much anticipated trust forward. The president and the rest of the cabinet gleefully went on to mention that many nations were waiting in the wings, ready to jump at the opportunity to invest, to bring business and money into the country. They told the people, that if they embraced the amnesty, they would become the big winners……….indeed.
The April protests demonstrated the strength of the civility, but the demonstrations, at the same time, brought to light a myriad of flaws. In the Netherlands for example, the organizers of the April 10 protests were threatened by both the opposition as well as individuals with (seemingly) similar interest but a different agenda.Theo Para said in his speech on April 14 2012, that a generational shift is underway, a reality that does not sits well with everybody. Many people have expressed their dislike to the fact that certain key-issues are redefined and rethought by the newcomers. Indeed for the greater part of the 1980s the agendas of the human rights movement in Suriname and in the Diaspora have been determined by the 8 December 1982 massacres and later by the Moi Wanna killings. Gradual change came in the early 2000s, when during the 8 December Remembrance Services all victims from the military regime were remembered. Said changes notwithstanding, a large part of the Surinamese society continued animadverting, callously arguing that ‘they don’t care about the murders’ and ‘others died too’ and ‘things happened a long time ago’. The attitudes and behaviors of the Surinamese public, mirrors the neglect and lack of attention paid to human rights and history by previous governments.
The Bouterse regime used said fallacy to proliferate their version of the events leading to the massacres of December 8th 1982, arguing that said executions were casualties during combat. The rendition that the killings happened during combat raises a new set of questions:
In geval van Suriname moeten we ons afvragen of het wel gerechtvaardigd was om die oorlog te beginnen (jus ad bellum), om een gewapend conflict te beginnen tegen de burgers van het eigen land. In geval van de hele militaire periode gaat het erom of geweld gerechtvaardigd was, of men inderdaad de wapens kon opnemen tegen mensen die ongewapend waren. Er was geen sprake van een noodsituatie, nog van een directe aanval op de staat, wettig gekozen regering. Die vragen staan centraal, en moeten centraal staan (Natascha Adama, Facebook 8 mei 2012)
One needs to ponder the question if indeed the situation in the country DID warrant the use of excessive force, if indeed the use of violence and force was justified in that specific situation. The fact remains that all people killed were unarmed, and could therefore under no circumstance pose a threat to the military (who were heavily armed). What we know, based on witness statements, is that people were shot point blank, in the front, oftentimes from a very close range. The question is not if the 15 men were guilty of conspiracy and treason; the question is, if excessive force used against unarmed civilians was justified on the eve of December the 8th 1982. If the Surinamese president continues to persist that the safety of the state was in jeopardy than we have to assume that he either refers to the fact that Suriname was at war in December 1982, or to his illegitimate position as commander in chief and leader of government. And last but not least, if Suriname was indeed at war, than the crimes committed during that specific period must be considered war crimes.
Said questions are relevant for future action, because lets assume that Court Martial decides to go with the proposition of the Military-Attorney, to wait for a Supreme Court to determine if the amnesty law indeed goes against the constitution, than the trial will be postponed (probably indefinitely). In that case one will have to await the materialization of said Court. If the Civilian Chamber of the Court Martial decides to go along with the defense, declaring the Public Defender inadmissible, than it will be opportune to chart other avenues.
Either way, it will be a long and probably disheartening fight, because Mr Bouterse is protected by the reference date of the ICC (International Criminal Court). This reference date, the year 2002, makes it impossible to bring people to justice that committed crimes against humanity committed prior to the year 2002.
Countries such as the USA, Russia and other nations that typically participate in so called peacekeeping missions demanded the framing, to protect their own combatants from prosecution. It is therefore highly unlikely that their political stance, will lead to the broadening of the work field of the ICC.
Mr Bouterse is thus protected by an innate lack of political will by the superpowers to increase the competencies of the ICC (USA does not recognize the ICC, has not ratified the treaty) . How Ironic…..specifically when placed in the light of the contemporary. The fact that today once again, freedoms are impeded, that the international justice system is failing the Surinamese people is a bitter pill to swallow. As a watcher of Surinamese politics, for me the proof was in the pudding; the moment when Mr Bouterse changed course, showing his real face on Saturday May 8. Mr Bouterse showed his true colors, an anti-democrat, that does not like opposition and being opposed. To top it of, Mr Bouterse resorted to identifying himself with the state, when he declared HIS opponents “adversaries of the state“, thereby also referring to those living in Diaspora. Le etat ce moi, cried a famous French despot once, and alas history repeats itself, this time in Suriname where a despot decries the fact that he is opposed, in front of a crowd that is bribed to show up! Let them eat cake! Oh, the irony of history, the wrath that engulfs us if for a moment we seem to forget, falling on a slippery slope forgetting the object lessons of past events, the peril, the mayhem, the crisis.I do not find myself in Mr Bouterse’s accusation, I am not an enemy of the state, I have not committed high treason nor am I undermining the state. For me this transformation is no joking matter, for me this is serious business.
The fact that this president refuses to accept opposition or award said opposition its rightful status within the political arena is in and out of itself a great cause for concern. This banter and scaffolding has to be taken very seriously, 15 corpses can attest to the fact that this regime uses force if it feels threatened, if its opposed by more educated and more well-rounded people. Worrisome is also the mentioning by the president that many others are still unaccounted for, as Mr Bouterse himself mentioned in his speech “what about the military and the policemen killed”.
But despite the eminent danger this is a fight that must be fought, whatever happens! There is no way the current situation can continue, there is simply no way, that we have to accept the fact that politicians can come to power, only to turn back the clock, this time all the way back to 1982, a time when the nation was captured by fear and fright…when the cities and villages were enveloped in pitch darkness and comfort only came from the knowledge that ‘this too would pass”..It did pass then, and now it has.to…pass….to make way for a new political order, new leaders, new ideas, new perspectives on development……A new society that gives hope.
AUTHOR: Natascha Adama
E-MAIL: nataliapestova23 [@] yahoo.com