Suriname: Human rights group condemn violence over land recognition

May 6, 2023  -The human rights organization, Foundation December 8, 1982, has condemned violence that took place in Pikin Saron southwest of the capital, earlier this week, resulting in the deaths of two people and a police station and 11 lumber trucks set ablaze.

“We call on the authorities to take all necessary measures to track down and prosecute the perpetrators of this violent act and to create conditions in which the loss of life can be prevented and protected,” said Sunil Umrawsingh, who chairs the human rights group.

Government have since held talks with Amerindian leaders who have been complaining for years that their land rights are not protected by law and successive governments, despite repeated commitments, have never rectified this issue.

A draft law to regulate the land rights issue has been before parliament for a number of months for consideration and approval and 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.

The human rights group said as an organization, “we emphasize that advocacy for the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples must be done peacefully and without the use of violence.

“To achieve normalization, the government and other stakeholders must engage in dialogue with indigenous and tribal communities to work towards a solution that respects their interests and rights. Respecting human rights and the rule of law is essential in this regard.”

Umrawsingh insisted that violence is unacceptable and in a constitutional state it is important that everyone obeys the laws of the country.

“Standing up for your rights must and can be done without the use of violence. We therefore once again strongly condemn this violence. The Surinamese government has been repeatedly convicted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for violations of the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, but has not implemented these sentences fully or at all.

“Violations will continue in 2023. We call on the government to stop trampling on the collective human rights of indigenous and tribal peoples and to pass the necessary legislation in accordance with the rulings of the Inter-American Court. We urge the government to stop trivializing and respecting the rights and legitimate interests of indigenous and tribal peoples,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Land Policy and Forest Management (GBB), Dinotha Vorswijk, says the government has started a process to withdraw the extension of a timber concession without going to court.

She recalled that when the government came to office three years ago, it took a decision not to issue new logging concessions and to approve extensions.

Vorswijk, who gave an overview of logging concessions in the Para district, said that there are 31 active logging concessions in the area, and with regards to the Pikin Saron where the incident occurred, a concession extension was signed last July for five years.

She said following the incident, the government has decided to work with lawyers for the withdrawal of the extension and that the government is in the process of revoking other extensions.

In her statement to the National Assembly, Vorswijk said that the historical injustice must be corrected and that recognizing the fundamental rights of the indigenous and other tribal peoples is crucial.


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