Dienstag, 25. Oktober 2011

Fiasco land right conference in Suriname - Reading Disability or Indignation

Fiasco landrechten conferentie in Suriname - leesachterstand of kwaadwilligheid 

Before making some remarks to the actual discussion in Suriname after the failure of the land right conference in Cola Creek I want to accentuate that I´m not belonging to the mysterious foreign advisers who are accused to have manipulated Maroons and Indigenous People to present their position and vision by Carlos Lewis and by that provoked the Surinamese president to leave the conference. I´m only an interested observer of this spectacle who learned to read at school and (later) surf in internet to find information about the land right question which in my opinion is fundamental for the future of Suriname. Unfortunately Dutch wasn´t teached at my school. So I have some difficulties to express myself in this nice language although I can understand it. But as I know that most Surinamers are multilingual and learned English at school -just as I did- I allow myself to use this language. Besides that most documents in this land right case are also published in internet in English as there are:

1.    the judgement of the Interamerican Court from November 28, 2007 and
2.    the judgement of August 12,2008 (Interpretation of the judgement)

Let´s read how the court decided the question of the tribal territories’ ownership and its content and extension: 
“The State shall delimit, demarcate, and grant collective title over the territory of the members of the Saramaka people, in accordance with their customary laws, and through previous,  effective and fully  informed consultations with the Saramaka people, without prejudice to other tribal and indigenous communities.   Until said delimitation, demarcation, and titling of the Saramaka territory has been carried out, Suriname must abstain from acts which might lead the agents of the State itself, or third parties acting with its acquiescence or its tolerance, to affect the existence, value, use or enjoyment of the territory to which the  members  of  the  Saramaka  people  are  entitled,  unless  the  State  obtains  the  free, informed and prior consent of the Saramaka people.    With regards to the concessions already granted within traditional Saramaka territory, the State must review them, in light of the present Judgment and the Court’s jurisprudence, in order to evaluate whether a modification of the rights of the concessionaires is necessary in order to preserve the survival of the Saramaka people, in the terms of paragraphs 101, 115, 129-137, 143, 147, 155, 157, 158, and 194(a) of this Judgment. “ 
The court commented this decision in 2008 as follows:
“158.   From all of the above considerations, the Court concludes the following: first, that the members of the Saramaka people have a right to use and enjoy the natural resources that lie on and within their traditionally owned territory that are necessary for their survival; second, that the State may restrict said right by granting concessions for the exploration and extraction of natural resources found on and within Saramaka territory only if the State ensures  the  effective  participation  and  benefit  of  the  Saramaka  people,  performs  or supervises prior environmental and social impact assessments, and implements adequate safeguards and mechanisms in order to ensure that these activities do not significantly affect  the  traditional  Saramaka  lands  and  natural  resources and  finally,  that  the concessions already issued by the State did not comply with these safeguards.   Thus, the Court considers that the State has violated Article 21 of the Convention, in conjunction with Article 1 of such instrument, to the detriment of the members of the Saramaka people.”

And now let´s look what Carlos Lewis claimed in the name of Maroons and Indigenous People:

Wij, het traditioneel gezag van Inheemse en Tribale volken in Suriname, als deelnemers aan de nationale grondenrechtenconferentie te Colakreek, op vrijdag 21 en zaterdag 22 oktober 2011, hebben na intensieve beraadslagingen unaniem besloten dat:
De concrete uitkomsten van de grondenrechtenconferentie de volgende moeten zijn: 1.    Nationale erkenning van de grondenrechten der Inheemse en Tribale volken in Suriname, waarbij ook duidelijk moet worden vastgesteld dat onder ‘grondenrechten’ verstaan wordt de collectieve eigendomsrechten van de inheemse en tribale volken op hun traditionele woon– en leefgebieden. Hierbij zullen ook harde, concrete afspraken moeten worden gemaakt:
a. Dat deze nationale erkenning als minimumstandaard zal aanhouden: de VN Verklaring inzake de Rechten van Inheemse Volken (afgekort UNDRIP, aangenomen door de Algemene Vergadering van de VN op 13 september 2007) en het Saramaka vonnis en bijbehorende interpretatie van het Inter-Amerikaans Hof voor Mensenrechten (uitspraak op 28 november 2007 resp. 12 augustus 2008), met inachtneming van andere relevante afspraken en standaarden zoals vastgelegd in het internationaal recht
b. Dat deze nationale erkenning in Suriname wettelijk zal worden vastgelegd, binnen een periode van drie (3) jaar te rekenen vanaf de datum van de conferentie, en onder andere zal inhouden:i. Toevoeging in de Grondwet van de republiek Suriname voor grondwettelijke erkenning van de collectieve rechten van inheemse en tribale volken in Suriname, binnen één (1) jaarii. Concipiëren en ter goedkeuring voorleggen aan de Nationale Assemblee van een Kaderwet inzake de rechten van inheemse en tribale volken in Suriname, binnen twee (2) jaariii. Concipiëren en ter goedkeuring voorleggen aan De Nationale Assemblee van een (organieke) Wet inzake de grondenrechten van Inheemse en Tribale volken in Suriname, binnen twee (2) jaariv. Concipiëren en ter goedkeuring voorleggen aan De Nationale Assemblee van andere (organieke) wetten inzake de rechten van Inheemse en Tribale volken in Suriname, onder andere over de positie van het traditioneel gezag en het recht op FPIC en participatie, binnen twee (2) jaarv. Discussie en aanname van bovengenoemde wetten in De Nationale Assemblee binnen een jaar na indiening." 

I don´t see a difference between the court´s decision and the position of the Maroons and Indigenous People presented by Carlos Lewis. The paper of Carlos Levis even makes reference to the judgement. 
And for anyone who learned to read at school it´s clear that the decision of the Interamerican Court gives no right for absolute ownership on land and natural resources. 
You can read the decision and the explanations again and again, You won´t find any point leading to the argumentation of President Bouterse the Maroons and Indigenous People would claim for an own state in the state Suriname or would want to exclude all other Surinamers from the natural resources on and under their tribal lands. The resources only must be used without any danger for the livelihood and cultural heritage of Indigenous People and Maroons. 

To pretend something different as the President, the actual government and the ruling parties are doing it is near defamation of the tribal Surinamers and could be regarded as an attempt to divide the nation in a majority at the coast and a minority of Maroons and Indigenous People in the interior. It remembers very much at the tactic of exclusion and degradation of foreigners in Europe practiced by nationalistic and xenophobic politians like for example Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. 
Can that happen in a country pretending to be a worldwide model for racial and cultural tolerance and equality? Is that the special “Surinamese way” of solving problems the President mentioned in his speech at the opening of the conference? Intimidation, diffamation and contempt for people who only asked the government to follow international standards expressed in a judgement of the Interamerican Court.  
“International standard” seems to be a swearword for some Surinamers. Top polititians who elsewhere would sit in a prison and legal scholars in human and international right who elsewhere would maybe work as clerk in a law firm are running a whole nation. That´s the impression you could get watching the land right fiasco of the last days. A ray of hope is only coming from those who learned to read and to understand judgements like Carlos Lewis and the people he spoke for.
I wonder what those Maroons and Indigenous people behind Carlos Lewis think about the representatives of the so called Maroon parties who sit in a government with people who are looking down on their brothers and sisters and do everything to block the realization of the Saramaka judgement.

P. Wedderwille

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