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The 45th Independence Anniversary of Suriname

The 45th Independence Anniversary of Suriname
The 45th Independence Anniversary of Suriname
Written by Harry S. Johnson

The 45th Independence Anniversary of Suriname was celebrated in grand style on November 25th 2020. The Independence Day (Onafhankelijkheidsdag) was marked by the annual public holiday

On November 25th 1975, Suriname gained its independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In the months leading up to independence, nearly one-third of the population of Suriname emigrated to the Netherlands.

The first President of the country was Johan Ferrier, the former governor, and Henck Arron was Prime Minister.

The following are HIGHLIGHTS of a ZOOM public meeting held recently (22/11/2020) on the topic “The 45th Independence Anniversary of Suriname.” The Pan-Caribbean meeting was hosted the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre (ICC). It was chaired by Varsha Ramrattan amd moderated by Dr. Kirtie Algoe, both women from Suriname.

The speakers were ANGELIC ALIHUSAIN-DEL CASTILHO, Suriname’s former Ambassador to Indonesia and Chair of the Democratic Alternative91 (DA’91) party; DR. DEW SHARMAN, a medical doctor and the Deputy Chair of the National Assembly/Parliament of Suriname; and DR STEVEN DEBIPERSAD, also a medical doctor and and economics lecturer at the Anton de Kam University of Suriname.

CASTILHO said:

“Suriname’s main focus was, and still is, on the Netherlands, although  Suriname joined CARICOM [the Caribbean Community] in 1995. 
For all the years of our independence, there have not been ethnic clashes. However, it remains something we have to actively guard against. To ethnically unite Suriname has to be our goal for the next 45 years. 
Over the past 45 years, there is only one institution - the judiciary - that has remained intact and withstood bad governance, and is still trusted and respected.  
Independence is a journey that never ends. After 45 years, we still have disputes to settle at our borders, but also within our borders with our indigenous population. This cannot and should not be the inheritance of the next generation. We have to place a solid foundation for good governance, democracy and the rule of law as well as sustainable economic development.”

DR SHARMAN said:

“In 1873, the first Indians arrived in the Lalla Rookh as indentured labourers. In total, about 33.000 persons came to Suriname from which about 50% returned to India.

The persons who decided to stay in Suriname were essentially treated as second-class citizens. Although they worked very hard to achieve a better life, they were not allowed to integrate into the society, for example, by being excluded for government jobs, etc.

Since the declaration of the general voting-rights in 1949, an awareness came to Surinamese-Indians that to get ahead in society, politics and education must be two important vehicles.

Due to their struggle for equal rights against mainly Afro-Surinamese, and available opportunities, the VHP political party was formed. This party became quite prominent and de-escalated the racial tensions by adopting brotherhood and fraternization policies.

The political atmosphere in the run-up to Independence was tense and threatening for many Surinamese-Indians who feared ethnic escalations as had happened in Guyana a decade before. Due to the socio-political challenges, thousands of Surinamese – primarily of Indian origin – moved to the Netherlands for a better future and educational opportuities.

However, some of the people stayed in Suriname to help develop the country. Persons of Indian descent now form an integral part of Suriname’s society, although situations could be better.

Some of these persons have grown to an estimated 400,000 in number. Those who went to the Netherlands also helped develop that country as well.”

DR DEBIPERSAD said:

“Suriname is at an important crossroads.  We are now in the midst of a steep crisis, with a negative growth prediction this year by 12.5%, and a Government debt exceeding 125% of GDP. Combine these results with a CC rating heading to a default and a high country risk, tapping into new funds and attracting investors have become a major challenge.

Unsustainable debt combined with Covid-19 woes resulted in a steep decline of Government bonds, losing nearly 40% in value. October was the second time this year that the Government asked creditors for a deferral on interest payments.

My closing remarks are on the road ahead: First and foremost, the Government should work on a comprehensive restructuring plan. This roadmap for stability and sustainable growth should be finalized ASAP.

Just as important is a long-term debt management plan, especially since government’s debt exceeds 125% of GDP with the economy being in a deep recession and even more loans needed to trigger productivity.”

With a homegrown plan, assistance from the IMF should be sought. This has become a necessity for restoring confidence with the creditors abroad; this is just on the monetary and fiscal side.

Equally important is a collaboration with the US, NL, F, among others, to seek foreign investors. De-risking has kept investors away. With these initiatives, our comparative advantage will be enhanced.”

By Dr Kumar Mahabir