PARAMARIBO, Suriname, CMC – Government held emergency talks with Amerindian leaders on Tuesday night following the riots in the Pikin Saron area, southwest of the capital, earlier in the day that left two people dead and a police station and 11 lumber trucks set ablaze.
Justice and Police Minister, Kenneth Amoksi, said the Pikin Saron area remains inaccessible to civilians as the police and army continue their operations detaining persons associated with the attacks.
Chairman of the Association of Indigenous Village Chiefs in Suriname (VIDS), Muriel Fernandes, said that while her organisation was taken by surprise, the situation had been brewing for some time among the indigenous population, who feel that they are being treated unfairly by the government.
Fernandes said she regrets the acts of violence and the deaths and injuries linked to the rioting.
She said the protest has created the space for dialogue with the government, now that the pleas of the indigenous people are now finally being heard.
The government delegation to the meeting was headed by Foreign Affairs Minister Albert Ramdin and included the former police chief, Humphrey Tjin Liep Shie.
“The indigenous population demands, among other things, that their rights are respected and that lands in their traditional living space issued to third parties are dealt with,” said Tjin Liep Shie, adding “indigenous people feel that they are not being respected enough and this must end”.
He said the government has looked at this issue with great understanding and everyone agrees that this has taken too long, promising that the government will seriously consider the issues raised.
The parties have agreed to meet within the next two weeks after an inventory has been made of the living areas of the indigenous people.
The Ministry of Land Policy and Forestry Management is part of the initiative to determine which parcels of land have been allocated to third-parties in areas the indigenous people say are their lands.
The indigenous people have complained for years that their land rights are not protected by law and successive governments, despite repeated commitments, have never rectified this issue.
In the meantime, a draft law to regulate the land rights issue has been before parliament for a number of months for consideration and approval.
A few weeks ago, indigenous people, during a protest demonstration, presented petitions to the Speaker of Parliament to speed up the passage of the bill.
Suriname has already been ordered in at least two judgments by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to legislate the land rights of indigenous and tribal peoples. To date, none of these international judgments has been fully implemented.