The Slippery Slope of Authoritarianism

Posted on | april 30, 2012 | No Comments

Whoever thinks that this is a JOKE, please think again! Suriname is on the slippery slope of authoritarianism, becoming a lawless society. Last week two reporters were threatened just because they were doing there jobs, reporting about the loss of moral compass, reporting about social decay. There is little room for optimism, because too many people continue to act as if ‘things will go away’. Small but tangible traces of decay can also be found in the way the justice system works. The Surinamese judiciary although functioning, works with archaic laws stemming from the colonial days and decrees from the military period. The absence of a Constitutional Court to underpin the judiciary, is an added impediment in the sense that it puts laws to the test of not being contradictory to the constitution. This is in combination with a weak legislature and overpowering executive branch problematic for the separation of powers.

Problematic is also that the judiciary is comprised of very conservative judges, specifically when dealing with cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Oftentimes, the stance of the court reflects the public attitudes and opinions on sexual mores. A young girl who had been gang raped by a bunch of perverts, for example became an instigator, instead of a victim, simply because one of defense lawyers portrayed her as wanton and promiscuous. The defense team also uses less than democratic methods to fight in court. But who can blame them for wanting to win in court. The other side of this coin is that if the law permits that a given rape-victim may be smeared, than it is admissible in court. In the USA smearing rape victims became inadmissible only recently, and only because of massive public outcry. Problematic in the case of Suriname is that the defense team tries to gag critics, filing an injunction against the newspaper ( that criticized said tactic. (see also: And herein lies the problem, in Suriname in such instances, individuals typically try to stifle, gag or silence their opponents, critics and challengers, out of fear to lose their hard-fought status, their social standing, their position.

The fact that the personal oftentimes overrides the cause also explains why the civil society is at time ineffective. The paradox is that even in Suriname, people typically endorse a cause, and tend to turn away if that cause is to closely connected to an individual or a political party.

The same can be argued about the infighting within the ranks of the opposition. the fact that the constant battling makes it difficult to form a united front against the incumbency, and the force of disloyal elements, that are now preparing to take over the state, its institutions and more importantly its resources. An ineffective opposition has limited leverage to control government and force it to stay on the straight and narrow. Corruption is increasing, specifically the corruption that occurs behind closed doors. In the 1990s various shady deals were brokered with all kinds of Southeast Asian multinationals such as Berjaya and MUSA Indo. These deals may not have fallen through at the time because of the untimely demise of the Wijdenbos administration in 2000. Other more savvy and unscrupulous parties from Southeast Asia and China are ready to extract timber and other natural resource, and on a broader scale than in the 1990s.

The Surinamese government tries to put a spin on this sell-out, arguing that said companies will invest in Suriname, to create jobs and bring economic prosperity. The conclusion based on a significant number of cases in Africa and the Caribbean is that the extraction of timber will only lead to massive deforestation, desertification, and ensuing, flooding, (forced) urbanization and more poverty. The ending of the mining of high quality and easy access bauxite is nearing, which will lead to mass lay offs. It is hard to phantom that the current government will demand that the Suralco will clean up the polluted areas. Changes are that if the court-system fails to address the issue of amnesty law on its merit, the American multi-national will not be held accountable for the clean-up either.

Indeed the waiting for the judges ruling on the petitions by the Military-Attorney and the defense teams, occurs in an ambiance of apprehension and fear. Many people question the courage of the three judges, sensing that their ruling will reflect the culture of fear and in a sense lack of courage to challenge the incumbency in their effort to trample upon the separation of powers. There are some indications that the judges will bend, acquiesce, out of fear for their own lives and the lives of their families. Lets assume that this will be the case,than total destruction of democracy is eminent. And if democracy is going down than any Trued and Reconciliation Commission will be futile, a mockery, a sham. Let us not forget that in South Africa, that the TRC’s were closely connected to the courts, their reports brought certain elements of apartheid to justice. In Latin America, by the same token, scholarship has not been able to establish that the TRC’s have had a positive effect on democracy. The ambiguity here is that in all cases the sense of impunity is lifted because governments are taking action (Argentina and Chile).

Relevant is also that studies by Samuel Huntington (1999); Fernandes Jilberto et al (2005); Kruit & Konings (?) demonstrate that in the event of democratic decay, restoration can only occur if the old nomenclature is replaced by a new political order with aptness to restore popular fate in the state and its institutions. For example. in societies such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Guatemala, the lacuna left because of lawlessness and long term decay, fostered new types of violence and conflict. State violence became replaced by gang-violence and other forms of inter-personal and inter-relational violence ( Marras, domestic abuse ).

To end this rather bleak observation with a more optimistic note I want to stress the importance of the civil society, the fact that they have endless capacity to forge change, to demand that government takes action against moral decay, against lawlessness, in the hopes that they will muster the courage to demand change.

AUTHOR: Natascha Adama
E-MAIL: nataliapestova23 [@]


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