Our Story, By Us
< Current local time in Suriname – Paramaribo
PARAMARIBO–Police are facing criticism over their unforgiving way of tackling crime. Police –with assistance of the military- on Tuesday night tracked down and gunned down four men suspected of involvement in the robbery of a jewelry store. While many people in the community applaud the swift justice police meted out, others criticize police for disregarding the fact that the men were unarmed when police caught up with them.
Human rights organization Allied Collective has even threatened with dragging the State before the Inter-American Court for Human Rights (ICHR) for what it calls the probably summary execution by the police of three notorious criminals and a fourth person. The complaint will be sent to the judicial organization in two weeks’ time.
Robert Hewit of the Collective says that the state should create a picture of law and justice and not of terror and violence. He says the police may only use force of arms to defend themselves. “The victims were unarmed and the police may not create the impression that they will shoot suspects no matter what. Under the rule of law a suspect should be considered innocent until proven guilty by the judge,” Hewit said.
The macabre pictures of the bullet riddled bodies of Jules Balast Goddard, Arno Urbian Burleson, Kenneth Rizza Amzink and one Harrison, are making the rounds on the internet. Accompanying comments vary from relief to conspiracy theories that allege that many robberies are being instigated by highly placed Government officials, who then arranged to have them covered up with the killings of four criminals who had nothing to do with Monday’s jewelry heist. The conspiracy theorists claim that the killings also served to restore a sense of safety, as people were getting weary of the increasing crime rate.
Police insist they got their men though. They say the eliminated criminals were dangerous lawbreakers suspected of involvement in criminal activities dating back to 1995, culminating with the daring daylight robbery of jewelry store in the Maretraite Mall in north Paramaribo Monday. The robbers smashed showcases and made off with jewelry and pure gold; apparently some 10 kilograms valued in excess of 1.5 million Surinamese dollars. Three suspects were arrested Tuesday evening with some of the jewelry still on them. The four that were shot down were spotted around midnight in a car at Tout Li Faut, a rural residential area at a 15-minute distance, south of Paramaribo. The car too was riddled with bullets. Police insisted that excessive force had been justified, as “these men also committed other violent robberies, always with the use of gun violence.”
Outspoken parliamentarian and entrepreneur Shailendra Girjasingh agrees. He says that neither the police chief nor the Public Prosecutor’s office need to apologize for their hard but correct action during which police bullets claim the lives of criminals.
Girjasingh says to him these violent criminals had terrorized society for far too long. His has always been exceptionally harsh and critical against government’s crime policy, often the victim of criminals himself; distribution vehicles of his company Firgos have been robbed several times.
Girjasingh says he applauds the fact that police units made quick work of a group of suspects that authorities hold responsible for a number of violent crimes recently. He also calls for more material and equipment for the police, as well as better compensation for officers who daily put their lives on the line to protect society.