PARAMARIBO--Ronnie Brunswijk has caught much flak for throwing cash out of a helicopter over a village in District Marowijne over the weekend, but he stood firm on Wednesday, insisting that this was his way of helping people. “Stop focussing on me. Who have you helped today?” the former guerrilla leader turned politician fired back at his critics.
Video footage of the ABOP party leader “making it rain” over the village of Moengo Tapoe in eastern Suriname, first appeared on Sunday. In it villagers can be seen scrambling to collect bills that he is throwing from a red helicopter that hovers over their houses. The video quickly went viral, much to the ire of critics who seemed to be standing at the ready to condemn Brunswijk’s actions as primitive.
A former soldier assigned to the security detail of then military leader and current President Desi Bouterse, Brunswijk started the Jungle Commando in the 1980s that fought a six-year “Internal War” against the National Army. After the war he went into the gold-mining business and then went on to start the ABOP political party that from 2010 to 2015 formed the governing coalition together with the National Democratic Party (NDP) of his former foe Bouterse. He currently occupies a seat in Parliament for his ABOP party, that since 2015 has been relegated to the opposition. The 57-year-old Maroon earned his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in November.
Known for his outlandish antics, it is not the first time Brunswijk has literally and figuratively “thrown” money at people, most notoriously during election periods. However, speaking to the press on Monday, he said that this time it had nothing to do with politics and trying to bind his voters to him. “My cousin has passed away, and in our community it is tradition to put money on the table at these times. I helped out the family and then decided to spread more from a helicopter and make some people happy; I wanted to bring some cheer in the village. And it wasn’t even that much, only about 1,000 Surinamese dollars (approximately US $100),” he said at first.
When the criticism did not let off two days later, he fired back on his Facebook page. “I give when I can, because I know what it is to not have anything and be poor. I know how it feels to not have food to eat for days,” he wrote.
He said it was almost as if people expected him to just put his money in the bank and look at it while he could see people suffering. “Do they want me to go make it rain in foreign countries like those rich people who go on lavish holidays? Every man is guilty for the good he did not do. Instead of complaining about me throwing money, ask yourself what you have done to help out somebody today.”