FOREST PEOPLES PROGRAMME
February 22, 1997
1. World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to Consider Funding Programmes in Suriname
Suriname is seeking funds from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. It is scheduled to submit a funding proposal to the banks in March. According to Finance Minister, Mungra, environmental protection measures are to figure prominently in Suriname's proposal. This news came after a Surinamese delegation traveled to Washington DC to meet with staff of the Banks. Concrete details of what Suirname will seek funds for are not available at this time.
2. West Suriname Project Revived
There has been a lot of activity related to the revival of the West Suriname or Kabellebo project recently. This project involves constructing a hydroelectric scheme to provide energy for industrial operations. In particular, the exploitation of bauxite reserves in West Suriname as reserves in East Suriname are dwindling. Rumors were ciruclating last year that the Dutch government and a Dutch private energy corporation were interested in providing finance. However, recent events indicate that Surianme is turning to its neighbour Brazil for support. The President has made a number of trips to Brazil as has National Democratic Party leader, Desi Bouterse, to discuss the Kabellebo project in pasr weeks and a Brazillian delegation is expected in Suriname shortly.
The area slated for this project and for bauxite mining is one of high biological diversity with a significant population of endemic species. These activities will also affect Indigenous peoples who live in the region, namely Carib and Arawak communities in the Wayambo region and Apura-Section, which lies on the border with Guyana. An Indigenous leader from Apura recently stated that he welcomed bauxite mining as he believes that it will provide employment for community members. Leaders from Wayambo, however, are not pleased by the prospect of industrial mining and a hydroelectic scheme in their territory. The last hydroelectric scheme that Suriname constructed to facilitate bauxite mining operations, which caused the forced displacement of approximately 6000 Maroons, is still fresh in their memories. So to is the fact that Surinamese law does not recognize any guarantees for Indigenous and Maroon land rights.
The history of bauxite mining in Suriname does not inspire confidence either. Large areas of Eastern Suriname now resemble a moonscape rather than the lush tropical environment that exists in most other parts of the country. One Maroon community, Adjumakondre, has been severely affected by bauxite mining activities and others have also suffered negative effects. Suralco's smelter at Paranam is notorious for its failure to control the environmental effects of its operations. South African owned, Biliton, and Suralco, a wholly owned subsidiary of US company ALCOA are presently active in the bauxite sector in Suriname.
3. Berjaya Requests Concession of 150,000 hectares
Berjaya Berhad, a Malayasian logging company, recently requested a logging concession of 150,000 hectares in Surianme. Berjaya, which was expelled from the Solomon Islands for attempting to bribe a government minister, was one of the companies that had applied for a concession of 1 million plus hectares in 1995. Berjaya has also been working through front companies, SAWI in particular, for at least a year with the full knowledge of Surianmese authorities.
4. Triangle Mining NV
Canadian gold mining company, Morris Mayers, and Surinamese entreprenur, Jan Rama, have formed a holding company called Triangle Mining NV. This company has been granted a 3000 hectare concession near the Maroon community of Boslanti, which lies on the Suriname river some 90 km south of the capital Paramaibo. Other Maroon communities are affected by this concession and neither they or Boslanti were consulted about or even informed about the granting of this concession. Tensions have arisen between the company and local communities and one community has already asked that they leave their territory. The mining company claims that cooperation and relations between itself and the communities is good and that its has promised to build a school and provide other social services.
What is unique about this mining operation, in Suriname at least, is that it uses a mobile mining machine capable of exploiting aluvial deposits up to 30 metres deep. The company also claims that its operations are environmentally friendly insofar as they use a mercury retort system to recover mercury that otherwise would be released into the environment, although they do admit that it's only 95% efficient. If sucessful in this pilot project, Morris Mayers, owner of the Canadian firm, says that he will expand into other areas of Suriname.
5. Not Much Left to Give in Suriname
Mr. Lip o sam of Wylap Mining NV, partner of Canadian company Canarc, stated on the radio recently that very little of Suriname remains for granting mining concessions: most is gone already! Maps detailing concessions at the Government's Geology and Mines Service support this conclusion. Estimates of the number of Indigenous and Maroon communities located either in or affected by mining concessions exceeds 100. These concessions, some of which are held by Maroon and Indigenous leaders, were granted without informing or consulting with the vast majority of the affected communities.
6. Environmental Plan and Institute Contemplated
An environmental workshop was held in Suriname, January 23-24, to discuss an environmental plan for Suriname and the establishment of an Environmental Institute. This workshop was attended by government officials, NGOs and intergovernmental representatives. Concrete proposals are to generated based upon the conclusions of this workshop, but none have been seen to date. This may be one of the areas for which Suriname seeks World Bank and IDB funding.
7. New Indigenous Organization
A new Indigenous organization has been created in Suriname. The Federation of Indigenous Organizations in Suriname (FINOS). This organization, which was founded by disaffected members of another Indigenous organization, has very close ties to the government of Suriname.
8. Granman Pesaiphe Dies
Granman Mamedi Pesaiphe, traditional leader of the Trio people died last month in hospital in Paramaribo where he underwent an operation. The Granman will be sorely missed by his people, who held an eight day mourning ceremony in Kwamasemutu, which lies near the border with Brazil. He will also be missed by Indigenous leaders throughout Suriname, who knew him as a wise man who cared about the future of his people and all Indigenous peoples in Suriname. The Granman's sucessor is Asongo Alaraparwe.
Kwamalasemutu was recently in the news due to a dispute with Canadian gold mining company, Golden Star Resources. Community leaders claim that they were tricked into signing a letter of no objection to the granting of a mining concession on their land in November 1995 and had failed, despite repeated attempts, to have the concession revoked. A recent investigation by the Association of Indigenous Village Leaders states that the evidence supports the community's claim that they were tricked. They demanded that Golden Star be forced to leave their land and never return.
9. The Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname writes to the President to Express Concerns About the Government's Commission on Land Rights
The Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname (VIDS) recently wrote to the President to express concerns about the Government's Commission on Land Rights. This Commission takes the place of the Redan Commission, which was installed a number of years previously, to examine the "problem of land rights in the interior of Suriname." The VIDS questioned why the mandate of the Commission had not been made public; why its hearings to date have not been public and; why the VIDS had been excluded from giving testimony. They also said that the appropriate role of this Commission would be to identify international human rights standards related to land rights and then define, with the full and meaningful participation of Indigenous peoples, how these standards were to be implemented in the Surinamese context. The Government and its Commission have thus far rejected the application of interntional standards. They seem intent on attempting to define Indigenous and Maroon rights on the basis of individual titles, without any modification in existing Surinamese law. If they do so, Indigenous peopels and Maroons will remain without any viable and effective protections for their ancestral lands.
The position of the VIDS is supported by the resolutions of the Gran Krutu (Great Gathering) of Indigenous peoples and Maroons held in November of 1996. The Gran Krutu stated, with regard to the Land Rights Commission, that "this once again demonstrates a lack of respect for our human rights" and demanded that all and any future discussions relating to Indigenous and Maroon lands and resources must take place with the participation and consent of their freely chosen representatives.
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