The gradual implosion of democratic institutions in Suriname and the making of a mafia state

Posted on | juni 9, 2011 | No Comments


The harvest of one day surfing through the content of online Surinamese news sites, paints a ghastly picture of corruption, lies, fleecing, misguidedness and misrepresentation of facts. These reports indicate that democracy is seriously compromised. By gluing bit and bite size pieces of news and information together, creates a bigger but most disturbing picture of a democracy in peril. The manner in which news stream reaches the people in bits and bytes paints a haphazard picture of an awful and cumbersome situation.

One of the most noteworthy, contradictory reports was the heralding of a visit to New York by the wife of the president, with her own entourage. The first message dating 6th June stated that Mrs. Bouterse was attending a conference on Youth HIV/Aids infections. The news however did by the same token not make mention of the fact that Surinamese officials attended this Global conference on HIV/AIDS, so pivotal for Suriname. The next report dating Wednesday 8th June 2011, however states that Mrs. Bouterse was attending a conference on Childcare and was in New York for a special First Lady’s get-together. The question is why Mrs. Bouterse, not a health-care or child-care professional was attending conferences in New York, specifically if the president consistently asks of citizens to scrimp and economize. What if any is the added value of a meet and greet with the spouse of Mr. Ban Ki Moon? And how does such an elaborate visit rhyme with denying the workers and staff of the State Petrol Company, Staatsolie, and their hard earned bonuses? Portraying the first Lady as a Maecenas and champion of children’s right will not make her more popular or bestow her with the much desired class.

Insults, Verbal Abuse and “The Big Difference’
But the travels of the First Lady are just the tip of the ice-berg. There are other minor and major incidents indicative of what I qualify as, the implosion of democracy, rather the implosion of democratic institutions. In recent weeks, official news sources alleged that members of parliament from the ruling party received beatings from the president himself! In the 1980s both informal and anonymous sources reported similar incidences. The aforementioned report followed earlier reports mentioning the fact that the president gave the entire coalition a very stern warning not to ‘go against him’. After this incident, a meek and silent coalition embodied as a clap-machine materialized, lauding the negative policies of the president and the rest of the government. Any motion against the president is fruitless and even pointless, turning parliament into a toothless tiger.

Other disturbing reports, indicating that democracy is being jeopardized also have their rooting in the 1980s, when then Commander Bouterse coerced and forced both his so called allies and the opposition to get his way. Even when Bouterse was forced to relinquish power to civilian government in 1986, he continued to forcefully and unobtrusively push his agenda, threatening the incumbent government and society by for example supporting the bogus uprising of the Tucajana’s, until December 1990, when he took to overthrow government.

Mr. Bouterse always prided himself that he is not a man of small and idle talk (Dutch: ik houd niet van geouwehoer). His creed action speaks louder than words, a creed that contributed to his reputation of an adroit, cunning and decisive leader. His accession in office however muddied said reputation because it almost immediately became clear that Mr. Bouterse is an inchoate and inexperienced leader, who uses coercion and blackmail to get his war. Also problematic is the fact that he lives under the impression that his ability to verbally entice a certain demographic, using the language of the street will also work in government and parliament. The parliamentary speeches by the incumbent president to outline policy in the forthcoming years are exceptionally poor in substance, in fact mockeries of democracy. Striking was for example his inability overarching political differences during his speech commemorating 145th birthday of the Surinamese Parliament. On that specific occasion, Mr. Bouterse insulted not only his audience, he in fact insulted the very institution where he was elected president, the very institution that he shunned, ignored and offended, when he was an MP, by not showing up to represent his constituents. Mr. Bouterse returned to allegedly apologize, and then went on to shoot blanks at his audience, lamenting about prestigious projects in the making: a highway with nine overflies, housing and so on. Neither parliament nor society understood what he meant by stressing ‘that that was the difference’. What was the difference, that he could not put aside his pride to apologize, like he said, he would? The big difference on the specific occasion that Mr. Bouterse came to apologize was the fact he decided to demonstrate his power and his prowess to mobilize his supporters. The irony is that they could only entice people to show up by paying them. Indeed people showed up to cheer and laude the president on his way inside the parliament building, but they were offered food, drink and a free round-trip transportation.
The cardinal question here is: where is the opposition and why are they so silent? The same internet news sources provide an equally harrowing picture of a divided and clueless opposition, too busy with infighting and hurling petty argumentation about succession around. As of yet the opposition has failed to come up with a unified strategy to deal with crisis. In fact their deafening silence on the draconic economic measures that gave rise to staggering inflation, and henceforth to a dramatic increase in the cost of living is a problem in and out of itself. Who will defend democracy? Who will defend human rights?

Many participants on FACEBOOK hope for a Surinamese style Jasmine Revolution. The concretizing of said hope is however remote, given the fact that organization is confined to trade union and political parties. There is no strong middle class apt to organize protest, to camp out and sacrifice. The concern of many observers continues to be the deafening silence that currently captivates society. The lethargic and docile mood that permeates large segments of society currently, will certainly not contribute to the building of a powerful outer- parliamentary and grass-roots protest movement. Of equal concern is the future, because it is unclear what will happen if the president continues to push against the borders of democracy, dismantling its supporting institutions, infringing upon human rights.

Drugs and Mafia

In conclusion I want to mention that democracy is not only jeopardized by corruption, fleecing and wanton spending of government funds for private purposes. One of the aspects shun by the Surinamese media is the involvement of the Surinamese president, his son as well as other members in his immediate circle in drugs trade. Suriname during the 1980s became an important hub for drug transports to Europe from South America. Between 1985 and 1999 many of the Bouterse entourage and Mr. Bouterse himself were convicted by courts in the USA and Europe.

Wikileaks and other sources mention that Hugo Chaves helped pay for the election campaign of de Nationale Democratische Partij (NDP). New York Times and other seminal news organizations as well as the academia, raked up substantial evidence, tying Hugo Chavez to the FARC. Members of FARC stated that Hugo Chavez funded their offices in Caracas, and among other things, helped facilitate cross-border operations of FARC. Relevant were the finding that both FARC and Chavez are/were involved in the narco and terrorist activities, supporting and facilitating organizations such as Hezbollah. The New York Times reported that Chavez did not facilitate out of the goodness of his own heart. In lieu for all this assistance Chavez wanted FARC to help him to get rid some of his political adversaries. The concern here is how said events will affect Suriname, given the fact that both Wikileaks and other sources have connected Desi Bouterse and his son with narcotrafficking. There is no reason to assume that things have changed: The observations by

A member of the FARC’s secretariat, Victor Suárez Rojas, who used the nom de guerre Mono Jojoy, once called Mr. Chávez a “deceitful and divisive president who lacked the resolve to organize himself politically and militarily.” (NYT May 10, page A11)

Also apply to the current Surinamese president Desi Bouterse.


Desi Bouterse forms an immediate threat to the already fragile Surinamese democracy. The extent of fleecing, nepotism and corruption pushed the economy into a free fall downhill. Other factors of equal concern are the docile and lethargic attitude of the people, taking everything that occurs in society as it comes, waiting to give the president a chance.

Sources and References

  • New York Times(;
  • Also see: The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of Raúl Reyes,” to be published Tuesday by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London)

Reports on the Visit to New York by Mrs. Bouterse
First Lady, Ingrid Bouterse-Waldring, heeft tijdens haar missie in New York, een beleefdheidsbezoek gebracht aan Ban Ki Soon-taek, de echtgenote van de secretaris-generaal van de Verenigde Naties (VN).

Tijdens dit bezoek werd er gesproken over de Surinaamse vorderingen inzake de eliminatie van de HIV-transmissie van moeder op kind.

De First Lady woont in dit kader de Special Event for First Ladies bij. Zij bood bij deze gelegenheid het logo van dit project, verwerkt in een mahonie houten schijf, aan Ban Ki Soon.

De VN-first lady toonde zich zeer verheugd hiermee en had ook interesse in de projecten die de presidentsvrouwe in Suriname uitvoert op het gebied van Kinderen en Educatie, met name de opzet van leeshoeken voor kinderen.
Tijdens dit bezoek waren aanwezig VN-ambassadeur Henry Mac Donald en kinderrechtenspecialist Lilian Ferrier.

AUTHOR: Natascha Adama
E-MAIL: nataliapestova23 [@]


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