The violence against the Indigenous population in Pikin Saron, Suriname, on May 2nd have made international headlines in the Caribbean region, the United States, and the Netherlands. This event serves as a reminder of how Suriname continues to grapple with the legacy of their colonial past with the Netherlands. Suriname was once the slave colony of the Netherlands and consists of Indigenous people, descendants of enslaved people from West Africa, descendants of indentured labourers from Indonesia, China, and India, as well as migrants from other countries.
By: Christa Wongsodikromo
In Starnieuws, 17 May 2023 (https://www.starnieuws.com/index.php/welcome/index/nieuwsitem/75711).
On the same day, an Indigenous delegation comprising representatives from OSIP (Organisation of Collaborating Indigenous villages Para district) and VIDS (Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname) held an emergency meeting with the Surinamese government, presenting their demands. These demands include justice for the victims and survivors, as well as the revocation of all land titles issued in Indigenous territories. These developments bear similarities to the Land Back movement in the United States of America. Following the reported deaths, hundreds of people, along with delegates from approximately 10 villages, peacefully gathered during a protest in Paramaribo.
President Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia who united over 1300 ethnicities in one country, states that decolonisation is an ongoing process. It requires patience, determination, and the involvement of the entire population. Let us not forget that many of the Caribbean communities have lived during colonialism or are currently still colonised. Decolonisation is not only necessary in political and cultural aspects but also in the economic sphere. Capitalism, introduced by the colonisers, has had devastating consequences for Suriname and the world at large. It is the reason many of the people arrived in Suriname involuntarily. Globalised by colonialism, this economic system leads to the depletion of natural resources and the current climate crisis. Although Suriname contributes only a small fraction to this global problem, it does not mean that the rights of the Indigenous population can be ignored.
Reconciliation of Humanity and Nature
Furthermore, not only the economic system but also the legal system should be decolonized. After gaining independence, Suriname, like Indonesia, adopted the Dutch systems and laws. The Dutch legal system was built on the foundations of colonialism, created to legalise crimes such as land theft, human trafficking, and resource exploitation. Suriname could learn from countries like Ecuador, where the rights of nature are legally recognised. By implementing a legal system that protects the interests of the Indigenous population and nature, Suriname can take a step towards the process of restoring the connection between humanity and nature. We are part of nature, and we borrow nature from the Earth. However, in order to put that into practice, there needs to be a government that contemplates decolonizing the economic and legal system. When we understand that the economic system stemming from colonialism is a corrupt system, we can better comprehend the origins of corruption issues in many formerly colonised countries.
The current events are just one of many examples where the legacy of colonialism is reflected in Suriname. The Indigenous population, defending themselves, is now portrayed as terrorists on their own land. We don’t have to behave like our former coloniser and pursue a neo-colonial policy. Greed is not inherent to humanity. As President Sukarno stated when he opened the Bandung Conference in 1955: We have been a voiceless people for centuries. We are peoples whose decisions were made by others whose interests took precedence. We demanded independence, and with independence comes responsibility. Not just for ourselves and each other, but also for future generations.