Media Center



September 24, 2004 - Washington, DC

Esteemed Chairwoman of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Marina Gutierrez,
Esteemed Permanent Representatives,
Distinguished Dean of the OAS Permanent Representatives, Ambassador Denis Antoine,
Distinguished Secretary-General, Miguel Angel Rodriguez,
Distinguished Permanent Observers,
Distinguished Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Luigi Einaudi,
Distinguished Director-General of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery, Ambassador Richard Bernal,
Distinguished Alternate Representatives,
Specially Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, it is with distinct pleasure that I, as President of the Republic of Suriname, have the opportunity to address you, as the political and administrative leadership of the Organization of American States and to do so in this most magnificent and prestigious Hall of the Americas makes it an even more privileged occasion.

Mr. Secretary General, your remarks of yesterday in your inaugural address reflect clearly your our determination to fulfill this task in the most efficient and effective manner. I congratulate you with your assumption of this high office and as a member State we remain ready to provide you with all the assistance you would need both political and administrative.

Over the past ten years this oldest regional Organization in the world has been led by a distinguished politician. Secretary General Cesar Gaviria has indeed lifted the stature and political relevance of the OAS. I commend the former Secretary General for his sterling contributions, his vision and his stewardship.
We look forward to his continued engagement in the Western Hemisphere and with the Caribbean Community in particular in the years to come.

I take this opportunity also to extend my sincere appreciation to the leadership of the O.A.S. for facilitating the implementation of a resolution in the political crisis encountered by our sister nation, the Republic of Haiti.

Haiti has become, since its inception as the first black independent Republic, the symbol of struggle, of hardship, but also of courage, survival and solidarity.

This longtime battered Nation needs more profound, constructive and long-term assistance to improve its living conditions and resolve its political, economic and social problems.

Distinguished Chairwoman and Permanent Representatives,

Suriname became a member of the Organization of American States in 1977, two years after gaining its independence in 1975. Our membership of this important political organization became soon thereafter relevant and opportune, since the young Republic was confronted in 1980 with an unconstitutional alteration of the Government and within months after, the already butchered democracy came to a firm halt, which included the disruption of the effective functioning of representative and legislative bodies.

While the gaining of independence in one of the most culturally and ethnically complex communities in the Western Hemisphere was characterized as an example of peaceful ending of colonial rule, the experience of the military rule was extremely painful for the people of Suriname. This experience included the killing of innocent citizens and the detaining of political leaders. This brief description of the Suriname experience will certainly contribute to understand the position of Suriname in the Haiti case.

Armed resistance in the interior, negotiations of political parties and the civil society with the military regime and the influence of a number of Governments in the Hemisphere resulted in general and free elections in 1987, observed by many countries and institutions, like the OAS. Since then Suriname has held three successful elections and we stand on the eve of new general elections in the first half of 2005.

The Organization of American States, through its National Office, but more so through the activities of the Special Mission, headed by Edgardo Reis, has played a critical role in this process of re-democratization. Without doubt, the OAS engagement in Suriname is a most significant expression of the relevance of this body.

Of more recent date is the support received from the OAS to start with the clearance of mines dating back from the war in the interior of Suriname between the National Army and opponents of the military regime.

On behalf of the People and Government of the Republic of Suriname I once again extend my sincere appreciation for the assistance by the O.A.S.

Today the Republic of Suriname is again a democracy, where there is respect for basic human rights, where democratic institutions function effectively, where general, free and fair elections are held on a regular basis. It is within this atmosphere of democratic values, high levels of religious and ethnic tolerance and economic potential that my Government and People are building a society that can prosper and engage with the region and with the world beyond.

Distinguished Representatives,
Mr. Secretary General,

We are again at one of those turning points in the history of mankind. The shaping of a new world political and economic order is taking place at a time when many countries are struggling domestically with providing long- term economic growth and opportunity, and at the same time are engaged internationally in carving out a niche market of their own in the several theatres of external economic negotiations. For countries like Suriname, it becomes a costly challenge to simultaneously and effectively participates in trade negotiations in the World Trade Organization, the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, as well as in several CARICOM driven bilateral trade arrangements.

At the same time the international as well as the regional agenda is dominated by the efforts to battle the threats emanating from terrorism and illegal drug trafficking.
Small countries, with their limited budgets and personnel, are expected to comply with the new standards set to ensure security and safety, most of the time in other places than their own. These requirements add enormous financial difficulties for the vulnerable Caribbean economies. In a situation of declining revenues, the security measurements result in a further decrease of income for these countries.

At this point I wish to express my sympathy, also on behalf of the Government and People of Suriname towards the Governments and Peoples in our region battered by the recent hurricanes. My special thoughts go to the Island of Grenada that has been so severely damaged and to the Haitian People that once again had to suffer a tough blow from the forces of nature.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world today is characterized by uncertainty at all levels. There is no debate on the fact that processes of globalization, trade liberalization and the rapidly changing technological innovations have brought opportunities, but also new challenges, and in some cases difficult choices.

The more relevant question is: opportunities for whom and problems for whom! There seems to be an awareness that the imbalance in the sharing of the benefits and problems should be addressed.

The nations of the Western Hemisphere have not escaped from this dilemma. While the process of democratization has taken us away from the dark days of military rule, of dictatorships, the dark clouds over our Peoples and Nations have not completely shifted. Our nations in the hemisphere are still awaiting the day that a full and bright sunlight will shine over them, expressing prosperity, equality and peace.

Beyond the existing challenges and demands to build stable democratic societies, where human rights are observed and where the rule of law prevails, our Nations are being confronted with new problems. Representative democracy in many of our countries has not resulted in strong economies, where the people at large, the youth and women, can benefit from income generation and social progress. Inequality is increasing in most of the affected countries.

Recent surveys of the United Nations show that the first priority of a majority of the people in Latin America is not democratically elected leadership. Political instability, as a result of the financial and economic crises in many newly established democracies is a serious impediment to progress and sustainable growth.

This is a trend that can and should not be ignored by the Organization. I urge you to dedicate full attention to these, possibly devastating, developments for the established democratic architecture and to consider appropriate responses in preempting the outbursts of new political crises.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Republic of Suriname joined the Caribbean Community in 1995 and is now intensively involved in the sub-regional integration process that aims at making the vulnerable economies of the Caribbean more competitive in the global economy, that aims at creating a single market and economy that brings together 15 countries and 14 million people.
A Community working towards free movement of people, capital and skills and establishing its own judicial framework. A challenging task and in my view, an integration that cannot be delayed.

What is taking place in the Caribbean Community reflects the ideals of great liberators as Simon Bolivar, and visionary Caribbean politicians as Michael Manley, Eric Williams and Forbes Burnham. It is at the same time an aspiration to be followed by the community of nations belonging to this Organization, a vision to create a family of Nations in the Americas on the basis of political will and constructive engagement, mutual respect and understanding, all in the context of the premier multilateral political platform in this hemisphere: the Organization of American States.

In this process of renewal of the inter-American system, the increasing engagement between the different groups of countries and the commitment of the Caribbean Community to be a relevant part of this hemispheric body, Suriname stands ready to contribute to a stronger, a more inclusive Organization of American States. The Caribbean countries share with the other nations of this hemisphere not only the Western Hemisphere, but also the same ideals and objectives, as well as their immediate problems, challenges and interests.

In building this unified and inclusive OAS, the Caribbean Community has demonstrated its commitment in the past decades on many occasions: in the debate on how to resolve political crises, whether in Peru, Bolivia, Haiti, Guyana or Venezuela, in the contributions made towards creating a more comprehensive, balanced and effective Inter-American Democratic Charter, or by taking leadership in defining the new and multidimensional nature of security.

This political commitment and ambition requires also that we contribute to the administrative leadership of this Organization.

The newly elected Secretary-General Miguel Angel Rodriguez, even before his inauguration, spoke on the need to restructure the administrative body of the OAS.

Ambassador Ramdin, a former assistant Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, a former Permanent Representative of Suriname to the OAS, who has chaired this same august body, as well as the Inter-American Council for Integral Development, who has the qualification of having worked at various levels in the hemisphere, and within the OAS both on the political and administrative side, in a meeting earlier this month, with the black caucus of the Congress of the U.S.A., outlined the new challenges to the Peoples of the Americas.

Political insights, vision of change and inclusion, managerial skills, but above all belief in and dedication to the inter-American system, of men like Ambassador Ramdin, can contribute to make a meaningful and beneficial difference in the OAS.

I take this opportunity to draw your attention to the candidacy of Ambassador Ramdin for the post of Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, and to thank my CARICOM brothers and sisters for the support given to him and to Suriname for this candidacy. I extend my thanks also to those other countries, which have signaled their positive considerations.

Madam Chair, Distinguished Permanent Representatives and Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have indeed made progress over the past decades and the OAS has been at the forefront of the political achievements. We have developed many inter-American instruments, signed off many conventions, treaties and declarations.

We have established through the Summit of the Americas process a mechanism for consultation and debate at the highest political level in the Western Hemisphere. But much more needs to be done to create peace and prosperity for the Peoples of the Americas. There is indeed a need to revisit many of the instruments developed in terms of their implementation and their applicability in these challenging days. For this we need to build a strong and inclusive OAS. An OAS that will be capable of addressing the many political, economic and social challenges to come in an effective manner.

One of the most important task for this Organization will be to provide political momentum and political leadership to tackle in a meaningful manner the problems related to poverty, HIV Aids and the degrading environment. The OAS has to become more proactive in resolving political crises in its member states, so as to avoid unexpected and undesirable occurrences beyond the multilateral framework agreed upon.

Given its political impact and effects on developments, the debate on poverty, on social development and social justice should be a standing item on the agenda of the OAS. Poverty and inequality are the source of the instability we are experiencing in the political functioning of States and their democratic bodies.

The anticipated increase in assistance for the resolution of crisis situations will not only require wisdom, political finesse, but certainly an alert and consistent application of existing instruments, not in the least the invocation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Madam Chair,

In closing, let me take this opportunity to assure the membership of the Organizations of American States of the commitment of the Government and People of the Republic of Suriname to the principles and purpose as laid down in the Charter of the OAS.
The OAS has gained in political stature over the past ten years, it is time to enter the next stage and make this Organization one of great strength to serve the new needs of the People of the Americas. The Government and People of Suriname are convinced that this objective can be achieved through strong leadership, teamwork, dedication and above all respect for and understanding of each other.

I thank you,
Muchisimas Gracias,
Muito Obrigado.