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< Current local time in Suriname – Paramaribo
AMSTERDAM–The call for an apology for slavery from the Dutch authorities got an unprecedented boost last Saturday, when the Council of Churches released a statement in which it acknowledged its involvement in the inhumane practice. “As churches we know of our part in this blemished past and we have to acknowledge that theology was misused to justify slavery,” the statement said. The council said it regretted that it did not have these insights earlier.
“(Slavery) is a story of white Dutchmen, of Government and also of the church,” said Council chairman Klaas van de Kamp in a televised discussion on Friday. He said the church held a prominent place in the community back then, but systematically chose to look the other way. “We have a beautiful gospel, but we failed to apply it. Instead we chose to make money (from slavery),” Van de Kamp said. He said it is time the white Dutchman acknowledges his role in the “black holocaust.”
The extensive statement by the Council was presented to the Moravian Church on Saturday at a ceremony in the north Holland city of Amersfoort. It was addressed to the “churches and the descendants of people who were once traded and put to work as slaves.” The statement noted that descendants live in Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, the Dutch Caribbean and the Netherlands.
PARAMARIBO–Suriname’s tobacco legislation took effect as of Friday June 7th. As of now anyone caught smoking in public, selling cigarettes to minors or importing excessive amounts of cigarettes, faces jail time and stiff fines. The Ministry of Health jump started the new law with speeches and the start of its anti-smoking campaign.
The National Assembly passed the Anti-Tobacco Legislation last February, with 39 votes in favor and 13 against. The law virtually only allows people to smoke at home, in their cars or other private places. Violation is punishable with jail time, as is importing excessive amounts of cigarettes. Selling loose cigarettes is also forbidden and advertising banned, while packaging has to carry graphic warnings that smoking kills.
Government said the public smoking ban is intended to discourage the unhealthy habit and to prevent people from inhaling secondhand smoke, which in turn should lead to a healthier community. The new legislation won Suriname praise from health watchdog Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC); ministry officials were lauded last month by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for their roles in the passing of the landmark legislation.
PARAMARIBO–The dismissal of two Ministers from President Desi Bouterse’s cabinet is growing a tail. Coalition and opposition parliamentarians were unanimous and adamant in their demands on Tuesday that the President immediately present himself in the National Assembly to explain their gathering why Public Works Minister Ramon Abrahams and Zoning Minister Ginmardo Kromosoeto were sacked. But Bouterse also faces questions from his constituency. Opposition members walked out of the public meeting of the National Assembly Tuesday, after Parliament Chair Jennifer Simons-Geerlings read a letter in which the President only announced that he was accepting the Ministers’ resignations.
He gave no further explanation as to what led to the new development in his cabinet. After reading the President’s letter Simons-Geerlings aimed to continue the meeting “to allow Bouterse to come to Parliament”, but to no avail.
The news that Abrahams and Kromosoeto would no longer form part of Bouterse’s cabinet broke late Monday night. Both are from the President’s National Democratic Party (NDP) and both made headlines in recent weeks: Kromosoeto regarding irregularities with land issuance and Abrahams regarding concerns that he was granting lucrative Public Works contracts to friends and family. Abrahams has refuted the allegations; Kromosoeto told journalists he did not get fired, but rather tendered his resignation.
PARAMARIBO–The vessels for Suriname’s Coast Guard have set sail for the country. The go-fast boats that are produced by French manufacturer Ocea were loaded aboard the cargo ship Martha in the harbor of Saint-Nazaire in western France. The Martha is expected to make the voyage to Suriname in three weeks, French naval news website Meretmarine reported on Wednesday.
Government ordered the three vessels earlier this year, for the Coast Guard unit that is now being set up. Reports are that personnel is now undergoing trained to man the boats, that will be deployed to fight maritime crime and conduct patrol duties.
Government ordered FPB 98 type and FPB 72 type ships from Ocea. The FPB 98 type is 32 meters in length and 6.3 meters wide. The FPB 72 type is 24 meters long. The vessels can reach speeds of 30 knots.
Hamburg / Paramaribo – German natural gas and crude oil exploration/ production company RWE Dea, on Wednesday announced that it has signed a farm-in agreement with PETRONAS Suriname E&P BV (“PETRONAS Suriname”), acquiring a 40% interest in the license Block 52 off the coast of Suriname. RWE Dea said it the move “will secure entry into Suriname’s proven hydrocarbon potential.”
RWE Dea joins several other international companies that have shown interest in the oil fields off Suriname’s coast in recent years, after a 2011 discovery off the coast of French Guiana was described as “game changer” for the region’s oil prospects. Earlier Texan oil company Apache and Californian Chevron joined the offshore oil hunt. Last month Staatsolie signed with Malaysian national oil company Petronas, for the production sharing contract that RWE Dea now has shares in.
Under the farm-in agreement which is subject to completion, RWE Dea will acquire a 40% stake in the license for Block 52. The license area covers 4,743 square kilometers and is located in the Guyana-Suriname Basin, some 120 kilometers off the northeast coast of South America in water depths ranging from 100 to 1,000 meters. PETRONAS Suriname is the operator of this prospective exploration area with high-impact potential in Upper Cretaceous strata. The planned work programme for Block 52 comprises a 3D seismic survey and the drilling of one exploration well in the next three years.
PARAMARIBO–The U.S. Embassy handed over a mobile drug interdiction unit to the Korps Politie Suriname (KPS) at the opening of an investigative skills training at the Police Academy on Monday, June 10. The mobile interdiction unit was funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) and is part of U.S. efforts to assist Suriname as it builds capacity to combat drug trafficking and transnational crime. Police Chief Humphrey Tjin Liep Shie accepted the vehicle on behalf of KPS.
The mobile interdiction unit includes over US$20,000 of equipment to assist police in detecting illicit drugs and other contraband.
The program included remarks from Police Chief Tjin Liep Shie and Ambassador Anania. In his remarks, Ambassador Anania, stated “The drug trade exacts an enormous toll on our economies, on our societies, and on our citizens. The mobile interdiction unit is part of our work with Suriname to improve citizen safety by working together to reduce illicit trafficking, increase public safety and security, and promote social justice.”
This project links to the goals of the Caribbean Basic Security Initiative, the program through which the United States works with the nations of the Caribbean to combat the drug trade and other transnational crimes that threaten regional security.
The mobile interdiction unit is equipped to assist police authorities in detecting drugs and other contraband and to improve their searching ability of vehicles. This is the first time that such technology has been made available in Suriname.
PARAMARIBO–When Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with President Desi Bouterse in Trinidad and Tobago next week, he will discuss ideas to strengthen the friendship between China and Suriname, and establish a new plan of cooperation that will take bilateral relations to higher level, China’s ambassador to Suriname has said. “China always wants to be a loyal partner to Suriname for mutually beneficial cooperation,” wrote ambassador Yang Zigang, the People’s Republic new envoy to Suriname wrote on Thursday. In a lengthy article submitted to the press, the ambassador shared his thoughts on the Suriname/China relationship, as a precursor to the Trinidad China/Caribbean summit. “It will be a milestone in Chinese-Caribbean ties,” wrote ambassador Yang.
President Xi’s visit to Trinidad is part of a tour that will also take him to Costa Rica and Mexico and then on to California in the US, where he will hold talks with President Obama. It is the 59-year-old president’s first visit of the English speaking Caribbean since he was chosen as China’s Head of State last March.
“President Xi Jinping will have multilateral meetings with the Caribbean leaders at the summit in Trinidad, but there are bilateral meetings planned with several leaders individually. Suriname’s president is one of those leaders our president will meet, because China places high value on the relationship with Suriname. China wants to continue its sustainable development cooperation with Suriname, and with the basis of mutual respect and benefit,” an aide at the Chinese embassy in Paramaribo said. He clarified that ambassador Yang’s four page article in Dutch aimed to underscore the significance of the bilateral relationship and the meeting between the two countries’ presidents. “The talks will mark the first time in ten years our Heads of State will meet. It will not only improve their work relationship, but also strengthen a personal relationship between them,” ambassador Yang wrote. Read more »
By Marvin A. Hokstam
AMSTERDAM–Derk Vermeer, Chairman of the Board of the Royal Tropical Institute KIT in Amsterdam sounded full of confidence last Monday when he said that all efforts were being made to keep the institute’s historical collections in the Tropical museum and the KIT Library accessible to the public. KIT harbors one of the most comprehensive collections that detail Dutch colonial dealings in the Caribbean, and social media has buzzed alive lately with fears that much of this colonial heritage may get lost per January 1st 2014 when budget cuts take effect. But Vermeer said there is a solution. “I trust that the collection will not get lost; everything that involves our colonial heritage will remain accessible one way or the other,” he said resolutely.
His response may console the thousands of people who have raised their voices in recent months in fear that much of their history on display at the stately building at Mauritskade in Amsterdam would disappear. KIT’s fate has been in the balance since 2011, when Government announced that the institute would have to make do with 20 million euros less in subsidies; with half of their budget gone, , the library will be closed and museum faces in any case a reduction with 23 of the 52 jobs, 35 % of the staff. KIT’s Research and Intercultural Professionals Departments are among the lucky ones to escape unscathed.
“Talk about erasure,” St. Maartener Deborah Jack reacted last weekend when she heard the news. She was one of many who are expressing shock with what some call Dutch disinterest in its colonial history. “Dutch politicians and even a lot of Dutch people wouldn’t mind (the KIT collections disappearing), as they don’t feel that part of their history is important and/or feel it’s an embarrassment they want nothing to do with,” worldly Dutchwoman Sasha Dees commented.
The objections are also taking official form. Close to 10,000 people from all over the world have so far signed a petition that urges the Rutte Kabinet and the Second Chamber to grant structural financing and keep the museum open. The petition called the budget-cuts a “frontal attack on the flagship store of ethnology museums”. Urging preservation of the expertise and the collection at the Tropics Museum for future generations, it warned that “when the prestigious library and museum are closed, knowledge will be destroyed that will never be restored.” The petition will be presented to Government and Parliament on June 17th.
PARAMARIBO, Suriname–The heavy rains that have pounded Suriname over the past two weeks have subsided, but it will likely be a while before the country gets over the carnage. “It’s a sunny day today, but the water hasn’t retreated yet,” said Patrick Kensenhuis, a Parliamentarian from District Para on Thursday. He said that in his district farmers have lost thousands in crops and cattle, and that this applies to other parts of the country as well. Kensenhuis feared that the stagnant water in the residential areas could lead to diseases.
The obstinate rains have caused trouble in several parts of the country. The Meteorological Office has related the heavy downpours to disturbances in the inter tropical convergent zone around the equator, which unleashed between 300 and 400 millimeters in rainfall per square kilometer since May 1st; unusual since Suriname generally gets 2,500 to 3,000 millimeters of rainfall per year. The last time similar atmospheric disturbances caused such bad weather was in June 2006, when rains took rivers in the hinterland beyond their banks; more than 450 millimeters of rain fell then. Some 100 villages were inundated and hundreds of people were relocated. Three lives were lost then. So far this year there have been no reports of casualties.
Meteorologist Truus Warsodikromo said that the hinterland was hit the hardest because the heavy rains fell there first before the coastal areas around Paramaribo experienced the effects of the disturbances.
PARAMARIBO–With just over a month to go before Suriname (and other former Dutch colonies) marks the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, an Afro-Surinamese foundation has refueled the calls for an apology from the Netherlands. Rudi Bottse, chairman of the Broki (Bridge) Collective said that if the Dutch don’t apologize in 2013, he will lodge a complaint at international organizations against the former colonizer.
“If the Dutch don’t apologize this year, I will seek support from other countries with a slavery past to bring this matter to the attention of the European Union and the Unit Nations and force the Netherlands to formally apologize,” Bottse said.
The history of Slavery in the former Dutch colonies is about as old as Dutch colonial history. Over more than three centuries a lively slave trade existed, during which the Dutch shipped an estimated one million Africans from their continent to work on plantations in “the new world”. Slavery was officially abolished on July 1st 1863, but it has always remained a sour point that the Netherlands didn’t actually free the slaves out of humanity and never offered a formal apology to their descendants.
While the USA in 2008 passed a formal resolution apologizing for slavery and segregation and a London Mayor in 2007 apologized for that part of Britain’s history that is tainted by the slave trade, the Dutch have so far stopped short of saying they regret slavery took place.