Members of Suriname’s indigenous community on Saturday protested against what they have called their marginalization, deprivation, and non-respect and recognition of their collective rights by the government and other parts of society.
During a silent walk here, several hundred indigenous people from all tribes and from the deep hinterlands and far south took part in the protest.
The immediate reason for the demonstration is the killing by the police of two indigenous men about two weeks ago after a group of indigenous men set fire to a number of logging trucks and a police station in the Pikin Saron area, southwest of the capital.
According to Sharmaine Artist, a spokeswoman from the group, Native Power, the silent march is the start of a number of actions that will be used in the coming weeks.
She said the organization now plans to write a number of international human rights organizations, including the Organization of American States, about the poor treatment indigenous people receive from the Surinamese government.
“We are also travelling to the different villages to speak to the people and explain to them what we intend to do,” Artist further explained. Hundreds of indigenous people took to the streets on Saturday to protest in a “silent way” against the lack of recognition of land rights. Indigenous groups have fought for years for this, but successive governments have so far failed to heed their call to solve this issue. “It was nice to see all the Indigenous groups. We proved that we are one. It was nice that people from the different villages, also from the far south, mobilized themselves to come here. We walked in unity and the Almighty for help,” said Artist
Following the death of two indigenous men earlier this month, Native Power in particular has decided to take more visible action.
Another organization – the Association of Indigenous Village Chiefs (Vids) also says it is now monitoring matters even more closely.
Meanwhile – last Thursday, the speaker of the house, Marinus Bee said that the government will look at a number of the concessions in the indigenous areas issued by the then Bouterse administration. These were subsequently extended by the Santokhi government. However, due to the lack of legal recognition of land rights, there is an unclear situation, resulting in many illegal economic activities, including gold mining.
The House speaker promised that he would look into whether there is political support for the bill and also coordinate with the government on how to proceed. The draft law has been put back on the agenda for next Tuesday’s parliament meeting.