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,
Distinguished Guests,
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 Suriname.

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.

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