News - November 24, 2015

Meanwhile in...Suriname

In the news: Suriname celebrates 40 years of independence on 25 November. Before that the country was a Dutch colony. How do people there experience this day?

Commentary by Richella Parker, student of International Development Studies

‘There are no invitations for foreign heads of state this year. The government has indicated that the celebrations will be “sober with an emphasis on reflection”. But the Surinamese will party anyway. There will be stalls selling food, drink and trinkets everywhere. And music and shows.

This year it is drawing a lot of media attention, both nationally and internationally. A group of musicians have composed special songs and you hear them all day on the radio. The national radio is propagating the idea that “life begins at forty” to suggest that Suriname is only now reaching full maturity. The government is trying to make people believe that things will really go well now for Suriname.

But people are not convinced. On social media there’s a cartoon doing the rounds of a gravestone reading: “Here lies Mr. Salary, born at the end of the month and dead by mid-month”. The Surinamese dollar has fallen 20 percent in value in recent months. People are wondering how they can cover their costs with incomes that have stayed the same.

Suriname has been independent for 40 years but it still has many links with the Netherlands.
Don’t forget that half the Surinamese live in the Netherlands and keep in touch with family in Suriname. Surinamese people’s attitudes to Dutch colonial rule vary. More and more people want to forget everything colonial as quickly as possible. They would like to see all visible traces of the colonial past being wiped out. For example, they want streets named for colonial rulers renamed for Surinamese heroes. But at the same time there are people who don’t have a problem with the country’s history.’