Published On: Tue, Feb 12th, 2013

Secret Dutch memoranda about Suriname released

bouterseAMSTERDAM – The Netherlands has released seventy pages of Foreign Affairs memoranda that shed some light on its involvement in Suriname in the early 1980s, but Suriname demands that all documents are released. "A step in the right direction," Suriname's Foreign Minister Winston Lackin called the declassification of the documents over the weekend. "But The Netherlands should make the entire package available to us, or at least allow us to look into it."

The Netherlands released the set of 70 pages, including memoranda by then Foreign Minister Hand van den Broek, on January 1. So far, the 70 pages that were released show that Foreign Affairs officials predicted the 1980 coup that put then army leader and current president Desi Bouterse in power.

Suriname had been granted independence on November 25, 1975, but the documents compiled in early 1982 say "the parliamentary democracy the country got, wasn't working. The system was bent by ethnical lines, which led to nepotism and corruption. Suriname was in a state of political and economic inertia, which prompted increasing unrest in the community. It is not surprising that the unrest of a group of officers eventually led to a "revolution" and a seizure of power on February 25, 1980."

The memoranda say that the Surinamese people had tense expectations from the military rulers and were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt to bring order. "The military rulers actually searched for a regime that would better fit the Suriname situation, but by December 1982 they hadn't been able to find that new system yet."

The murders of 15 of Bouterse's political opponents took place on December 8, 1982. The released documents do not detail that period though. They are, however, a very explicit report of how the lines of power went after the military took power, describing who Bouterse was aligned with back then, that he was leftist and who he would not work with. The documents also mention a contingency plan The Netherlands had in place to evacuate the 4,700 Dutchmen who lived in Suriname, in case their lives were in danger. Surprisingly the human rights situation in Suriname in early December 1982 is described as "relatively positive."

But Suriname Foreign Minister Winston Lackin wants more documents released, and in particular documents that could shed light on Dutch involvement in the 1980 coup. From when Bouterse took power in 1980, it has been rumoured that he did so with knowledge and even assistance of the then Dutch Government. The Netherlands, with which Bouterse has had a strained relationship since the 1982 murders and that wants to lock him up for involvement in drug-trafficking, has consistently denied this. The formal reading is that the Dutch Government only knew of the unionised unrest among the military, which eventually led to the coup.

However, some sources say that Colonel Hans Valk, the Dutch military attaché in Suriname in 1980, was the architect of the coup. Valk passed away in early December last year, at age 80. Bouterse has never confirmed whether he had help from Valk.

It is believed that releasing the remaining documents will bring a lot to light, but the Dutch Parliament's Second Chamber decided in late December 2012 that they should maintain them sealed until 2060, because "opening the dossiers could disrupt the safety and privacy of the people involved, as well as that of their children, in Suriname and in The Netherlands."

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