EX-POLS FACE ARREST

Suriname's new President Chan Santokhi addresses the audience after receiving the presidential sash from outgoing President Desi Bouterse, in Paramaribo, Suriname July 16, 2020.
REUTERS / Ranu Abhelakh, file

It is as if Guyanese and Surinamese officials are operating from the same playbook. Authorities in Dutch-speaking Suriname this week wasted little time in ordering the arrest and detention of former Vice President Ashwin Adhin on corruption charges linked to the alleged destruction of and removal of state property in the waning days of the National Democratic Party (NDP) government.

The surprise move has sparked outrage in the main opposition party, which lost the May 25 general elections to a four-party coalition led by the VHP Hindustani party of President Chan Santokhi.

Ashwin Adhin, former vice-president of Suriname seen here addressing the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., Sept. 26, 2019.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri, file

The ex VP is accused of destroying electronic and other property belonging to his ministry in an apparent attempt to deny the incoming government access to and use of same. He is to be arraigned sometime this week even as his party accused authorities of attempting to destroy it and hamper its rebuilding efforts. The NDP had served two consecutive terms but dropped from a majority 26 to 16 seats when the final results were announced.

“We must all ensure that the public prosecution service is not abused. Apprehension of critical opposition members in such a questionable manner, trampling on law and justice, is a serious violation of democracy and furthermore the right of members of the national assembly. Opposition members and former office holders are criminalized in advance by the government and coalition members,” an angry NDP said in a statement.

Across the border Corentyne River in Guyana, the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP), which is known to have very tight links with the coalition, is involved in a spirited but similar effort to throw former members of the previous David Granger administration in jail for either corruption, abuse of office or administrative overreach. Like the NDP in Suriname, the multiparty APNU-AFC coalition lost the March 2 general elections to the PPP and has filed elections petitions that are due to be heard next week.

In recent weeks, the Guyana cabinet detailed plans to reopen investigations into several land and other deals which had been negotiated by the previous batch of officials and has signaled that criminal charges will soon follow. The opposition has put up little resistance against plans by the government to indict former top officials, confining their reactions in weekly press statements.

To prove it is serious, several top officials of the elections commission, alleged to be sympathetic to the current opposition crop of officials,  have already been charged criminally with fraud linked to the March 2 elections and have been released on bail.

In relation to deals made between 201-2020, the police’s major crimes unit has been handed several files on alleged corruption and is expected to lay charges in the coming weeks.

In Paramaribo, the Surinamese capital, President Santokhi told parliament that ex VP Adhin was nabbed based on investigation and interrogation of three men who were part of his office.

“Based on that interrogation and the statements of others, the public prosecutor’s office has deemed it necessary to detain him as a suspect,” Santohki said. The decision to arrest and detain him came after a police confrontation with his former staffers on Tuesday.

In both cases, once powerful parties now in opposition appear to be operating at low energy levels and seem to be caught off guard by official moves despite  signals from both governments of their plans to act.

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