WILLEMSTAD – “Groups of criminals are behind the fires and destruction”, says minister for Justice Quincy Girigorie after Curaçao experienced its second day and night of unrest on Thursday, after a massive protest the day before. 55 individuals have been arrested thus far, including protest leader Lon Mutueel.
Justice minister Quincy Girigorie on the riots (Dutch spoken)
The minister spoke of 120 cases of arson, ‘from small dumpster fires to a school’. The fire department says that they received 75 reports the night before. Most of those reports concerned burning car tires, garbage bags, and bushes. But also a house, an office building, and a schoolroom at Pedro Luis Brion primary school in Steenwijk, burned down.
Police spokesperson Imro Zwerver spoke about a ‘situation of terrorism’ on Curaçaoan television yesterday. But minister Girigorie speaks about the work of ‘criminals’. “The presumption exists that these people are being encouraged and maybe paid to do some of this work.”
He suggests that the destructions have nothing to do with the social unrest brought on by the proposed cuts and dissatisfaction with the government. “But the situation last night was hard and painful. And it gave a feeling of helplessness because the fires were hard to control.”
Public Prosecutor looking for looters
In the meantime the Office for the Public Prosecutor (OM) has called upon those who have participated in the destruction and looting, to report themselves to the police. In a press release titled ‘Justice will tackle perpetrators’, the OM states that they will be distributing the visuals that were made of the looters to try and ascertain their identities. Those who do not show up voluntarily, can be sure that they will receive a harsher punishment. Citizens were also called upon to send videos and photos of the lootings, cases of arson, and other incidents of destruction to the police via WhatsApp.
Unions show solidarity
The unions have shown solidarity with the protest that took place last Wednesday, even though most of the union leaders were not there during the protest. Frensley Sillie did march with the protesters. He is the chair of the BTG, the union for public servants and the collective Sentral Solaridat Sindikal (SSS), where ten unions are represented. “The government itself provoked this escalation.”
Board member Gregory Wilson of the largest public servants’ union ABVO explains that they remain in talks for now. “We’re following the proper channels first and will continue to discuss the situation. Because if we join the rebels immediately, that would also be a reason to attack us. But if we feel like we have to take to the streets, we will.”
A lot of young individuals rioting
It was mostly young individuals who were rioting. “Understandable”, says Hayley Reinita-Canword who works as a school counselor and youth coach.
“If you’re hungry, you can’t think and you lose perspective. Young individuals are also easy to influence and usually don’t have perspective. That’s understandable, because it’s part of their natural development. So adults have to coach them in such a way that they follow the right path. If that doesn’t happen, they’ll do such things.”