Press release 137/2000
(01 December 2000)
Your Excellency Madame Minister Maria Elizabeth Levens,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Heads of International and Regional Organisations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Madam Minister, It is an honour, which is deeply appreciated, to have been invited to
respond on behalf of the diplomatic community to your kind expression of welcome to this
luncheon in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Independence of
It is also a great pleasure to congratulate you on your recent assumption of the
important office of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Suriname. We wish you a
most successful term of office and look forward to working closely with you to that end.
Madam Minister, the 25th Anniversary is a significant milestone in the early
life of a nation and Suriname is undoubtedly in that stage - a young Nation embodying and
displaying all the hopes, expectations and - even at times - the tempestuosity of youth.
Equally, it also displays evidence of experiencing the growing pains and teething
problems, which characterise the process of development toward maturity.
The significance of this period in the life of a nation lies in the fact that its
fundamental institutions - of governance, of political organisation, of economic
structures, of social organisation, etcetera - are usually at a stage where, though they
would have had some measure of historical performance and track record, they remain young
enough to be responsive to socio-political re-engineering and adjustment. Usually, this
period is often a critical phase in the development of a Nation, one which offers a vital
opportunity for adjustment and development.
Suriname seems to have recognised the existence of this window of opportunity and is
moving to exploit it.
As you are well aware Suriname acceded to CARICOM in July 1995. In the five years which
have elapsed since then, notwithstanding the fact that its legal and institutional
framework have been shaped by a history somewhat different from that of other members of
CARICOM, Suriname has been able to work closely with those other Member States and the
Secretariat towards realisation of the Community's objectives. Nowhere has this been more
evident or significant than in the work of the Inter-Governmental Task Force charged with
the task of transforming CARICOM into a Single Market and Economy, in its quest to achieve
the sustainable growth and development of our Region.
During that relatively short time, in 1999 Suriname served as Chairman of the
Conference of Heads of Government - CARICOM's supreme decision-making Authority, as
Chairman of the Community Council of Ministers, the second highest organ of the Community
and as Chairman of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations, concurrently - a
phenomenon never experienced before or after by the Community. Indeed, during this period
when asked by one journalist if Suriname was "really in the Caribbean
Community", the distinguished Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
responded "no, not in, in charge of the Community".
The responsibility which this involvement and commitment implies, demands of Suriname a
critical and active role in developing the structures of the Community, such as the
Caribbean Court of Justice, the Assembly of Caribbean Community Parliamentarians and the
strengthening of the Caribbean Community Secretariat.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Together with its other colleagues CARICOM Member States, Suriname is also in the
throes of the struggle for securing a viable future for all the Peoples of CARICOM in this
highly competitive global environment, where we are facing the loss of our preferential
markets, the erosion of our special relationships and threatening marginalisation. In the
face of these threats the entire Caribbean Community has been striving to establish new
and more productive relations at the level of the hemisphere through participation in the
negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, inter-regionally through a new
arrangement with Europe, and globally through active participation in the negotiations in
the World Trade Organisation.
Madam Minister, in all these initiatives Suriname is called upon to play a vital role
which will serve to achieve that important original goal of Suriname, to which you
referred, of "strengthening and expanding relations with countries both
within and outside our Region".
The representation here today, Madame Minister, at this the 25th anniversary
suggests that Suriname has been successful in this regard.
It is also my pleasure to inform you of another success for Suriname, namely that
arrangements have now been completed by CARICOM and all relevant signatures obtained, for
Suriname to become a party to the CARICOM-Canada Technical and Economic Agreement, better
known as CARIBCAN.
Before moving a toast to the Government and People of Suriname it is also my pleasure
to hand over to you a copy of the first issue of the "Caribbean Trade and
Investment Report", prepared and published by the Secretariat and launched
on Tuesday 21 November. We hope that the information it provides will prove to be of
inestimable value to Suriname as a Member State of CARICOM.
And now, on behalf of all present, I have the honour to invite you to raise your
glasses and to join me in a toast to good health and prosperity - gezondheid, welzijn en
welvaart - of the Government and People of the Republic of Suriname.
I Thank You.