Suriname

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This article is about the country. For other uses, see Suriname (disambiguation).
Republic of Suriname
Republiek Suriname  (Dutch)
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "JustitiaPietasFides" (Latin)
"Justice – Piety – Trust"
Anthem: God zij met ons Suriname  (Dutch)
God be with our Suriname
Capital
and largest city
Paramaribo
5°50′N 55°10′W / 5.833°N 55.167°W / 5.833; -55.167
Official languages Dutch
Recognised regional languages
  • Sranan Tongo Creole
  • Caribbean Hindi
  • Javanese
Ethnic groups (2012[1][2])
Demonym Surinamese
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
 -  President Dési Bouterse
 -  Vice-President Robert Ameerali
Legislature National Assembly
Independence
 -  constituent country 15 December 1954 
 -  from the Netherlands 25 November 1975 
 -  Current constitution 30 September 1987 
Area
 -  Total 163,821 km2 (92nd)
63,251 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 1.1
Population
 -  2013 estimate 566,846[3] (167th)
 -  2004 census 492,829[4]
 -  Density 2.9/km2 (231st)
7.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $5.060 billion[5]
 -  Per capita $12,398[5]
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $3.790 billion[5]
 -  Per capita $8,853[5]
Gini (1999) 52.9[6]
high
HDI (2013) Increase 0.705[7]
medium · 100th
Currency Surinamese dollar (SRD)
Time zone SRT (UTC-3)
Drives on the left
Calling code +597
ISO 3166 code SR
Internet TLD .sr

Suriname (/ˈsʊrɨnæm/, /ˈsʊrɨnɑːm/ or /ˈsʊrɨnəm/, also spelled Surinam), officially known as the Republic of Suriname (Dutch: Republiek Suriname, Dutch pronunciation: [ˌrepyˈbliːk ˌsyriˈnaːmə]), is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is bordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south.

Suriname was colonized by the English and the Dutch in the 17th century. In 1667 it was captured by the Dutch, who governed Suriname as Dutch Guiana until 1954. At that time it was designated as one of the constituent countries (Dutch: landen) of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, next to the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles (dissolved in 2010). On 25 November 1975, the country of Suriname left the Kingdom of the Netherlands to become independent. A member of CARICOM, it is frequently considered a Caribbean country and has had frequent trade and cultural exchange with the Caribbean nations.

At just under 165,000 km2 (64,000 sq mi), Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America. (French Guiana, while less extensive and populous, is an overseas department of France.) Suriname has a population of approximately 566,000,[3] most of whom live on the country's north coast, where the capital Paramaribo is located. Suriname is a mostly Dutch-speaking country; Sranang, an English-based creole language, is a widely used lingua franca. It is the only independent entity in the Americas where Dutch is spoken.

Etymology[edit]

This area was occupied by various cultures of indigenous peoples long before European contact. The name Suriname may derive from a Taino (Arawak-speaking) indigenous people called Surinen, who inhabited the area at the time of European contact.[8]

English settlers, who founded the first European colony at Marshall's Creek[9] along the Suriname River, spelled the name as "Surinam".

When the territory was taken over by the Dutch, it became part of a group of colonies known as Dutch Guiana. The official spelling of the country's English name was changed from "Surinam" to "Suriname" in January 1978, but "Surinam" can still be found in English. A notable example is Suriname's national airline, Surinam Airways. The older English name is reflected in the English pronunciation, /ˈsʊrɨnæm/ or /ˈsʊrɨnɑːm/. In Dutch, the official language of Suriname, the pronunciation is [ˌsyriˈnaːmə], with the main stress on the third syllable and a schwa terminal vowel.

History[edit]

Main article: History of Suriname

Colonial period[edit]

Maroon village, Suriname River, 1955

Beginning in the 16th century, French, Spanish, and English explorers visited the area. A century later, plantation colonies were established by the Dutch and English along the many rivers in the fertile Guiana plains. The earliest documented colony in Guiana was an English settlement named Marshall's Creek along the Suriname River.[9] Disputes arose between the Dutch and the English. In 1667, during negotiations leading to the Treaty of Breda, the Dutch decided to keep the nascent plantation colony of Suriname they had conquered from the English. The English got to keep New Amsterdam, the main city of the former colony of New Netherland. Already a cultural and economic hub in those days, they renamed it after the Duke of York: New York.

In 1683, the Society of Suriname was founded by the city of Amsterdam, the Van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck family, and the Dutch West India Company. The society was chartered to manage and defend the colony. The planters of the colony relied heavily on African slaves to cultivate the coffee, cocoa, sugar cane and cotton plantations along the rivers. Planters' treatment of the slaves was notoriously bad,[10] and many slaves escaped the plantations.

In 1799, the British occupied Suriname. Although returned to the Dutch in 1802, the British reoccupied it in May 1804 and did not return it to Holland until 1816. Suriname was one of the most important centers of the Jewish population in the Western Hemisphere, and Jews there were planters and slaveholders.[11]

With the help of the native South Americans living in the adjoining rain forests, these runaway slaves established a new and unique culture that was highly successful in its own right. They were known collectively in English as the Maroons, in French as the Nèg'Marrons (literally meaning "maroon neg[roes]", that is "runaway negro slaves"), and in Dutch as Bosnegers (literally meaning "forest negroes"). The Maroons gradually developed several independent tribes through a process of ethnogenesis, as they were made up of slaves from different African ethnicities. Among them are the Saramaka, the Paramaka, the Ndyuka or Aukan, the Kwinti, the Aluku or Boni, and the Matawai.

The Maroons often raided the plantations to recruit new members from the slaves and capture women, as well as acquire weapons, food and supplies. The planters and their families were sometimes killed in the raids; colonists built defenses, which were so important they were shown on 18th-century maps, but these were not sufficient.[12] The colonists also mounted armed campaigns against the Maroons, who generally escaped through the rainforest which they knew much better than did the colonists. To end hostilities, in the 19th century the European colonial authorities signed several peace treaties with different tribes. They granted the Maroons sovereign status and trade rights in their inland territories.

Abolition of slavery[edit]

Javanese immigrants brought as contract workers from the Dutch East Indies. Picture taken between 1880 and 1900.

Slavery in Suriname was abolished by the Netherlands in 1863, but the slaves were not fully released until 1873, after a mandatory ten-year transition period during which time they were required to work on the plantations for minimal pay and without state-sanctioned discipline. As soon as they became truly free, the slaves largely abandoned the plantations where they had worked for several generations in favour of the city, Paramaribo.

As a plantation colony, Suriname was still heavily dependent on manual labour, and to make up for the shortfall, the Dutch brought in contract labourers from the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) and India (through an arrangement with the British). In addition, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, small numbers of labourers, mostly men, were brought in from China and the Middle East. Although Suriname's population remains relatively small, because of this history it is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries in the world.[13][14]

Dutch colonists, 1920. Most Europeans left after independence in 1975.

On 23 November 1941, under an agreement with the Netherlands government-in-exile, the United States occupied Suriname to protect bauxite mines.[15] In 1954, Suriname became one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands. In this construction, the Netherlands retained control of defense and foreign affairs. In 1973, the local government, led by the NPK (a largely Creole, meaning ethnically African or mixed African-European, party) started negotiations with the Dutch government leading towards full independence, which was granted on 25 November 1975. The severance package was very substantial, and a large part of Suriname's economy for the first decade following independence was fueled by foreign aid provided by the Dutch government.

Independence[edit]

The first President of the country was Johan Ferrier, the former governor, with Henck Arron (the then leader of the Nationale Partij Suriname (Suriname's National Party) as Prime Minister. In the years leading up to independence nearly one-third of the population of Suriname emigrated to the Netherlands, amidst concern that the new country would fare worse under independence than it had as an overseas colony of the Netherlands. Indeed, Surinamese politics soon degenerated into ethnic polarisation and corruption with the NPS using Dutch aid money for partisan purposes. Its leaders were accused of fraud in the 1977 elections, in which Arron won a further term, and the discontent was such that a large chunk of the population fled to the Netherlands, joining the already significant Surinamese community there.[16]

December killings[edit]

On 25 February 1980, a military coup overthrew Arron's government.[3] On 15 March 1981 and again on 12 March 1982 failed counter-coups were attempted. The first attempt was led by Wilfred Hawker and the second by Surendre Rambocus. Hawker escaped from prison during the second counter-coup attempt but was captured and executed. Between 2am and 5am on the morning of 7 December 1982, the military, under the leadership of Dési Bouterse, rounded up 13 prominent citizens who had criticized the military dictatorship in Suriname and brought them to Fort Zeelandia.[17] They were executed over the next three days, along with Rambocus and Jiwansingh Sheombar (who was also involved in the coup attempt). The Netherlands quickly suspended all foreign aid to Suriname. In 2012, Bouterse was tried for the murders, but the Suriname parliament passed a law that granted Bouterse amnesty for the alleged violations before the trial was concluded. The Dutch government stated that stopping the trial was "totally unacceptable".[18]

Elections were held in 1987, and a new constitution was adopted that, among other things, allowed Bouterse to remain in charge of the army. Dissatisfied with the government, Bouterse summarily dismissed them in 1990, by telephone. This event became popularly known as the "Telephone Coup". His power began to wane after the 1991 elections; an ongoing brutal civil war between the Suriname army and Maroons loyal to rebel leader Ronnie Brunswijk, begun in 1986, further weakened Bouterse's position during the 1990s. In 1999, Bouterse was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands on drug smuggling charges.

Seeing the deterioration of the situation, Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands considered inviting the country to rejoin the Netherlands as an "associated state" in 1991.[19]

21st century[edit]

On 19 July 2010, the former dictator Dési Bouterse returned to power when he was elected as the new President of Suriname.[20]

Politics[edit]

Presidential Palace
National Assembly
Court of Justice
Main article: Politics of Suriname

The Republic of Suriname is a constitutional, democratically representational republic based on the 1987 constitution. The legislative branch of government consists of a 51-member unicameral National Assembly, simultaneously and popularly elected for a five-year term.

In the most recent elections, held on Tuesday, 25 May 2010, the "Megacombinatie" won 23 of the National Assembly seats followed by "Nationale Front" with 20 seats. A much smaller number, important for coalition-building, went to the "A‑combinatie" and to the "Volksalliantie". Negotiations are ongoing between parties regarding the formation of coalitions.

The President of Suriname, who is elected for a five-year term by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly or, failing that, by a majority of the People's Assembly,[clarification needed] heads the executive branch. If at least two-thirds of the National Assembly cannot agree to vote for one presidential candidate, a People's Assembly is formed from all National Assembly delegates and regional and municipal representatives who were elected by popular vote in the most recent national election. As head of government, the president appoints a sixteen-minister cabinet. A vice president, normally elected at the same time as the president, needs a simple majority in the National Assembly or People's Assembly to be elected for a five-year term. There is no constitutional provision for removal or replacement of the president unless he resigns.

The judiciary is headed by the Court of Justice (Supreme Court). This court supervises the magistrate courts. Members are appointed for life by the president in consultation with the National Assembly, the State Advisory Council and the National Order of Private Attorneys. In April 2005, the regional Caribbean Court of Justice, based in Trinidad, was inaugurated. As the final court of appeal, it was intended to replace the London-based Privy Council.

Foreign Relations[edit]

President Desi Bouterse was sentenced in the Netherlands to 11 years’ imprisonment on a charge of drug trafficking. He is also the main suspect in the court case concerning the ‘December murders’, the assassination of opponents of military rule in Fort Zeelandia, Paramaribo, in 1982. These two cases place a constraint on relations between the Netherlands and Suriname. The Dutch government has stated it will only maintain necessary contact with the president.[21]

Due to Suriname's Dutch colonial history, Suriname had a long-standing special relationship with the Netherlands. However, these were strained because of the coup, and the Netherlands no longer maintains Suriname as a member of its development program.[22]

Since 1991, the United States has maintained positive relations with Suriname. The two countries work together through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Suriname also receives military funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.[23]

EU relations and cooperation with Suriname are carried out both on bilateral and regional basis, the latter within the framework of the on-going EU-CELAC and EU-CARIFORUM dialogues. Suriname is party to the Cotonou Agreement, the partnership agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union.[24]

On 17 February 2005 the leaders of Barbados and Suriname signed the "Agreement for the deepening of bilateral cooperation between the Government of Barbados and the Government of the Republic of Suriname."[25]

On 23–24 April 2009 both nations formed a Joint Commission in Paramaribo, Suriname to improve relations between both countries and to expand into various areas of cooperation.[26] Since the first meeting a second one was held on 3-4 of March 2011 in Dover, Barbados. At the second meeting several areas of mutual interest were reviewed including: agriculture, trade, investment, as well as international transport.[27]

In the late 2000s, Suriname intensified development cooperation with other developing countries. China's South-South cooperation with Suriname has included a number of large-scale infrastructure projects, including port rehabilitation and road construction, and Brazil has signed agreements to cooperate with Suriname in education, health, agriculture, and energy production.[28]

Military[edit]

Main article: Military of Suriname

The Armed Forces of Suriname have three branches: the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. The President of the Republic, Dési Bouterse, is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (Opperbevelhebber van de Strijdkrachten). The President is assisted by the Minister of Defence. Beneath the President and Minister of Defense is the Commander of the Armed Forces (Bevelhebber van de Strijdkrachten). The Military Branches and regional Military Commands report to the Commander.

After the creation of the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Army was entrusted with the defence of Suriname, while the defence of the Netherlands Antilles was the responsibility of the Royal Netherlands Navy. The army set up a separate Troepenmacht in Suriname (Forces in Suriname, TRIS). Upon independence in 1975, this force was turned into the Surinaamse Krijgsmacht (SKM):, Surinamese Armed Forces. On February 25, 1980, a group of 15 non-commissioned officers and one junior SKM officer, under the leadership of sergeant major Dési Bouterse, overthrew the Government. Subsequently the SKM was rebranded as Nationaal Leger (NL), National Army.

Administrative Divisions[edit]

The country is divided into ten administrative districts, each headed by a district commissioner appointed by the president, who also has the power of dismissal. Suriname is further subdivided into 62 resorts (ressorten).

Districts of Suriname
District Capital Area (km²) Area (%) Population
(2012 census)[29]
Population (%) Pop. dens. (inh/km²)
1 Brokopondo Brokopondo 7,364 4.5 15,909 2.9 2.2
2 Commewijne Nieuw-Amsterdam 2,353 1.4 31,420 5.8 13.4
3 Coronie Totness 3,902 2.4 3,391 0.6 0.9
4 Marowijne Albina 4,627 2.8 18,294 3.4 4.0
5 Nickerie Nieuw-Nickerie 5,353 3.3 34,233 6.3 6.4
6 Para Onverwacht 5,393 3.3 24,700 4.6 4.6
7 Paramaribo Paramaribo 182 0.1 240,924 44.5 1323.8
8 Saramacca Groningen 3,636 2.2 17,480 3.2 4.8
9 Sipaliwini none 130,567 79.7 37,065 6.8 0.3
10 Wanica Lelydorp 443 0.3 118,222 21.8 266.9
SURINAME Paramaribo 163,820 100.0 541,638 100.0 3.3

Geography[edit]

Main article: Geography of Suriname

Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America. Situated on the Guiana Shield, it lies mostly between latitudes and 6°N, and longitudes 54° and 58°W. The country can be divided into two main geographic regions. The northern, lowland coastal area (roughly above the line Albina-Paranam-Wageningen) has been cultivated, and most of the population lives here. The southern part consists of tropical rainforest and sparsely inhabited savanna along the border with Brazil, covering about 80% of Suriname's land surface.

The two main mountain ranges are the Bakhuys Mountains and the Van Asch Van Wijck Mountains. Julianatop is the highest mountain in the country at 1,286 metres (4,219 ft) above sea level. Other mountains include Tafelberg at 1,026 metres (3,366 ft), Mount Kasikasima at 718 metres (2,356 ft), Goliathberg at 358 metres (1,175 ft) and Voltzberg at 240 metres (790 ft).

Borders[edit]

Main article: Borders of Suriname

Suriname is situated between French Guiana to the east and Guyana to the west. The southern border is shared with Brazil and the northern border is the Atlantic coast. The southernmost borders with French Guiana and Guyana are disputed by these countries along the Marowijne and Corantijn rivers, respectively, while a part of the disputed maritime boundary with Guyana was arbitrated by a tribunal convened under the rules set out in Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on 20 September 2007.[30][31]

Climate[edit]

Lying 2 to 5 degrees north of the equator, Suriname has a very hot and wet tropical climate, and temperatures do not vary much throughout the year. Average relative humidity is between 80% and 90%. Its average temperature ranges from 29 to 34 degrees Celsius (84 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit). Due to the high humidity, actual temperatures are distorted and may therefore feel up to 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than the recorded temperature. The year has two wet seasons, from April to August and from November to February. It also has two dry seasons, from August to November and February to April.

Nature reserves[edit]

Located in the upper Coppename River watershed, the Central Suriname Nature Reserve has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unspoiled forests and biodiversity. There are many national parks in the country: Galibi National Reserve, Coppename Manding National Park, and Wia Wia NR along the coast, Brownsberg NR, Raleighvallen/Voltzeberg NR, Tafelberg NR, and Eilerts de Haan NP in the centre, and the Sipaliwani NR on the Brazilian border. In all, 12.6% of the country's land area is national parks and lakes, according to the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.[32]

Economy[edit]

Main article: Economy of Suriname
Suriname Exports 2012

Suriname's democracy gained some strength after the turbulent 1990s, and its economy became more diversified and less dependent on Dutch financial assistance. Bauxite (aluminium ore) mining continues to be a strong revenue source, and the discovery and exploitation of oil and gold has added substantially to Suriname's economic independence. Agriculture, especially rice and bananas, remains a strong component of the economy, and ecotourism is providing new economic opportunities. More than 80% of Suriname's land-mass consists of unspoiled rain forest; with the establishment of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve in 1998, Suriname signalled its commitment to conservation of this precious resource. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve became a World Heritage Site in 2000.

Ministry of Finance.

The economy of Suriname is dominated by the bauxite industry, which accounts for more than 15% of GDP and 70% of export earnings. Other main export products include rice, bananas and shrimp. Suriname has recently started exploiting some of its sizeable oil[33] and gold[34] reserves. About a quarter of the people work in the agricultural sector. The Surinamese economy is very dependent on commerce, its main trade partners being the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, and Caribbean countries, mainly Trinidad and Tobago and the former islands of the Netherlands Antilles.[35]

After assuming power in the fall of 1996, the Wijdenbosch government ended the structural adjustment program of the previous government, claiming it was unfair to the poorer elements of society. Tax revenues fell as old taxes lapsed and the government failed to implement new tax alternatives. By the end of 1997, the allocation of new Dutch development funds was frozen as Surinamese Government relations with the Netherlands deteriorated. Economic growth slowed in 1998, with decline in the mining, construction, and utility sectors. Rampant government expenditures, poor tax collection, a bloated civil service, and reduced foreign aid in 1999 contributed to the fiscal deficit, estimated at 11% of GDP. The government sought to cover this deficit through monetary expansion, which led to a dramatic increase in inflation. It takes longer on average to register a new business in Suriname than virtually any other country in the world (694 days or about 99 weeks).[36]

  • GDP (2010 est.): U.S. $4.794 billion.
  • Annual growth rate real GDP (2010 est.): 3.5%.
  • Per capita GDP (2010 est.): U.S. $9,900.
  • Inflation (2007): 6.4%.
  • Natural resources: Bauxite, gold, oil, iron ore, other minerals; forests; hydroelectric potential; fish and shrimp.
  • Agriculture: Products—rice, bananas, timber, palm kernels, coconuts, peanuts, citrus fruits, and forest products.
  • Industry: Types—alumina, oil, gold, fish, shrimp, lumber.
  • Trade:
    • Exports (2012): $2.563 billion: alumina, gold, crude oil, lumber, shrimp and fish, rice, bananas. Major consumers: US 26.1%, Belgium 17.6%, UAE 12.1%, Canada 10.4%, Guyana 6.5%, France 5.6%, Barbados 4.7%.[37]
    • Imports (2012): $1.782 billion: capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, cotton, consumer goods. Major suppliers: US 25.8%, Netherlands 15.8%, China 9.8%, UAE 7.9%, Antigua and Barbuda 7.3%, Netherlands Antilles 5.4%, Japan 4.2%.[3]

Demographics[edit]

The population of Suriname from 1961 to 2003, (in units of 1000).

According to the 2012 census, Suriname had a population of 541,638 inhabitants.[2] It is made up of several distinct ethnic groups.

  • East Indians form 27% of the population. They are descendants of 19th-century contract workers from India. They are from the Indian states of Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh, in Northern India, along the Nepali border.
  • Surinamese Maroons (descendants of escaped West African slaves) make up about 23.5% and are divided into five main groups: Ndyuka (Aucans), Kwinti, Matawai, Saramaccans and Paramaccans.
  • The Surinamese Creoles form 14.5% of the population. They are the mixed descendants of West African slaves and Europeans (mostly Dutch).
  • The Javanese (descendants of contract workers from the former Dutch East Indies on the island of Java, Indonesia),[38] form 14% of the population. mainly in Nickerie, Saramacca, Wanica, Paramaribo and Commewijne
  • Chinese, about 14,000 are descendants of the earliest 19th-century contract workers. The 1990s and early 21st century saw renewed immigration on a large scale. In the year 2011 there were over 40,000 Chinese in Suriname, including legal and illegal migrants.[39]
  • Amerindians, the original inhabitants of Suriname, form 3.7% of the population. The main groups being the Akuriyo, Arawak, Kalina people (Caribs), Trío (Tiriyó), and Wayana. They live mainly in the districts of Paramaribo, Wanica, Marowijne and Sipaliwini.[40]
  • Europeans, descendants of Dutch 19th-century immigrant farmers, Portuguese from Madeira and other European peoples. The descendants of Dutch immigrant farmers are known as "Boeroes" (derived from boer, the Dutch word for "farmer"). Most Boeroes left after independence in 1975. Today there are about 1000 boeroes in Suriname, of which some are still present in the agricultural sector of Suriname
  • Jews, mainly descendants of Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazi Jews. In their history, Jodensavanne plays a major role. Many Jews are mixed with other populations.
  • Brazilians, many of them gold miners.[41]

The vast majority of people (about 90%) live in Paramaribo or on the coast. There is also a significant Surinamese population in the Netherlands. In 2005 there were 328,300 Surinamese people living in the Netherlands, which is about 2% of the total population of the Netherlands, compared to 438,000 Surinamese in Suriname itself.

Religion[edit]

Main article: Religion in Suriname

The predominant religion in the country is Christianity (48.4% in 2012),[42] both in the form of Roman Catholicism and various denominations of Protestantism, the Moravian Church being the oldest and largest. It is particularly dominant among Creoles and Maroons. The Creoles and to a lesser degree the Maroons, both predominantly descended from enslaved Africans, converted to Christianity during the colonial period but may still retain their Afro-American religion called Winti. Hindus form the second largest religious group in Suriname, comprising 22.3% of the population.[42] The Indian-descended population practices predominantly Hinduism, or in minority Islam. The Javanese practice either Islam or, a small minority, Javanism. Muslims constitute the 13.9% of the population of Suriname.[42]

Languages[edit]

Indian immigrants from British India
Butcher market in Paramaribo with signs written in Dutch.

Dutch is the sole official language, and is the language of education, government, business, and the media.[3] Over 60% of the population speak Dutch as a mother tongue,[43] and most of the rest speak it as a second language. In 2004 Suriname became an associate member of the Dutch Language Union.[44] It is the only Dutch-speaking country in South America as well as the only independent nation in the Americas where Dutch is spoken, and one of the two non-Romance-speaking countries on the continent, the other being English-speaking Guyana.

In Paramaribo, Dutch is the main home language in two-thirds of households.[1] The recognition of "Surinaams-Nederlands" ("Surinamese Dutch") as a national dialect equal to "Nederlands-Nederlands" ("Dutch Dutch") and "Vlaams-Nederlands" ("Flemish Dutch") was expressed in 2009 by the publication of the Woordenboek Surinaams Nederlands (Surinamese–Dutch Dictionary).[45] Only in the interior of Suriname is Dutch seldom spoken.

Sranan Tongo, a local creole language originally spoken by the creole population group, is the most widely used language in the streets and is often used interchangeably with Dutch depending on the formality of the setting.[46]

Surinamese Hindi or Sarnami, a dialect of Bhojpuri, is the third-most used language, spoken by the descendants of South Asian contract workers from then British India. Javanese is used by the descendants of Javanese contract workers. The Maroon languages, somewhat intelligible with Sranan Tongo, include Saramaka, Paramakan, Ndyuka (also called Aukan), Kwinti and Matawai. Amerindian languages, spoken by Amerindians, include Carib and Arawak. Hakka and Cantonese are spoken by the descendants of the Chinese contract workers. Mandarin is spoken by some few recent Chinese immigrants. English, Spanish and Portuguese are also used. Spanish and Portuguese are spoken by Latin American residents and their descendants and sometimes also taught in schools.

The public discourse about Suriname's languages is a part of an ongoing debate about the country's national identity.[46] The use of the popular Sranan became associated with nationalist politics after its public use by former dictator Dési Bouterse in the 1980s,[46] and groups descended from escaped slaves might resent it.[46] Some propose to change the national language to English, so as to improve links to the Caribbean and North America, or to Spanish, as a nod to Suriname's location in South America, although it has no Spanish-speaking neighbours.[46]

Health[edit]

The fertility rate was at 2.6 births per woman.[47] Public expenditure was at 3.6% of the GDP in 2004, whereas private expenditure was at 4.2%.[47] There were 45 physicians per 100,000 in the early 2000s.[47] Infant mortality was at 30 per 1,000 live births.[47] Male life expectancy at birth was at 66.4 years, whereas female life expectancy at birth was at 73 years.[47]

Transport[edit]

Suriname and neighboring Guyana are the only two countries on the mainland South American continent that drive on the left. In Guyana, this practice is inherited from United Kingdom colonial authorities. Various reasons are given to explain why Suriname drives on the left. It is thought that it is because the first cars imported were from England, but this is yet undocumented. In addition, this view does not say anything about traffic before the automobile era. Another explanation is that the Netherlands, at the time of its colonization of Suriname, used the left-hand side of the road for traffic,[48] and yet another is that Suriname was first colonized by the English.[49] Although the Netherlands converted to driving to the right at the end of the 18th century,[49][50] Suriname did not. Writers Peter Kincaid and Ian Watson suggest that in territories such as Suriname where there are no connecting roads to neighbouring countries, there is no external pressure to change the status quo.

Largest cities[edit]

Culture[edit]

Waterkant houses in Paramaribo, 1955.
Main article: Culture of Suriname

Owing to the country's multicultural heritage, Suriname celebrates a variety of distinct ethnic and religious festivals.

National celebrations[edit]

There are several Hindu and Islamic national holidays like Diwali (deepavali), Phagwa and Eid ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-adha. These holidays do not have specific dates on the Gregorian calendar as they are based on the Hindu and Islamic calendars, respectively.

There are several holidays which are unique to Suriname. These include the Indian, Javanese and Chinese arrival days. They celebrate the arrival of the first ships with their respective immigrants.

New Year's Eve[edit]

Pagara (red firecracker ribbons).

New Year's Eve in Suriname is called Oud jaar, or "old year". It is during this period that the Surinamese population goes to the city's commercial district to watch "demonstrational fireworks". The bigger stores invest in these firecrackers and display them out in the streets. Every year the length of them is compared, and high praises are given for the company that has imported the largest ribbon.

These celebrations start at 10 in the morning and finish the next day. The day is usually filled with laughter, dance, music, and drinking. When the night starts, the big street parties are already at full capacity. The most popular fiesta is the one that is held at café 't Vat in the main tourist district. The parties there stop between 10 and 11 at night, after which people go home to light their pagaras (red-firecracker-ribbons) at midnight. After 12, the parties continue and the streets fill again until daybreak.[52]

Sports[edit]

The Suriname Olympic Committee is the national governing body for sports in Suriname. The SOC was established in 1959 and now has 17 members: Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Boxing, Chess, Cycling, Judo, Karate, Shooting, Football, Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Triathlon, Volleyball, and Wrestling.

One of the major sports in Suriname is football. Many Suriname-born players and Dutch-born players of Surinamese descent, like Gerald Vanenburg, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Andwélé Slory, Ryan Babel, Aron Winter, Patrick Kluivert, Romeo Castelen, and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink turned out to play for Oranje. In 1999, Humphrey Mijnals, who played for both Suriname and the Netherlands, was elected Surinamese footballer of the century.[53] Another famous player is André Kamperveen, who captained Suriname in the 1940s and was the first Surinamese to play professionally in the Netherlands.

The most famous international track & field athlete from Suriname is Letitia Vriesde, who won a silver medal at the 1995 World Championships behind Ana Quirot in the 800 metres, the first medal won by a South American female athlete in World Championship competition. In addition, she also won a bronze medal at the 2001 World Championships and won several medals in the 800 and 1500 metres at the Pan-American Games and Central American and Caribbean Games. Tommy Asinga also received acclaim for winning a bronze medal in the 800 metres at the 1991 Pan American Games.

Swimmer Anthony Nesty is the only Olympic medalist for Suriname. He won gold in the 100 meter butterfly at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and he won bronze in the same discipline at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, he now lives in Gainesville, Florida, and is the coach of the University of Florida, mainly coaching distance swimmers.

In the sport of badminton the local heroes are Virgil Soeroredjo & Mitchel Wongsodikromo and also Crystal Leefmans. All winning medals for Suriname at the Carebaco Caribbean Championships, the Central American and Caribbean Games (CACSO Games)[54] and also at the South American Games, better known as the ODESUR Games.[55] Virgil Soeroredjo also participated for Suriname at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, only the second badminton player, after Oscar Brandon, for Suriname to achieve this.[56]

Multiple K-1 champion and legend, Ernesto Hoost, is from Surinamese descent. Rayen Simson, another legendary multiple world champion kickboxer, was born in Suriname. Remy Bonjasky also a multiple K-1 champion was also born in Suriname. MMA and Kickboxing champions Melvin Manhoef, Gilbert Yvel were born in Suriname or from Surinamese descent. Retired female kickboxer Ilonka Elmont was also born in Suriname. Another notable up and comer kickboxer and K-1 fighter, Tyrone Spong, was born in Suriname. Ginty Vrede, a former Muay Thai Heavy Weight Champion who died in 2008 aged 22, was born in Suriname.

Involving the sport of tennis, historic national champions include Gerard van der Schroeff (men's single national champion for 10 consecutive years between the years 1931-1941, plus champion of multiple future titles). Herman Tjin-A-Djie (men's national champion 1941 and 1945, plus men's national double champion for 10 consecutive years with his brother Leo). Leo Tjin-A-Djie (between 1948-1957 he was 8 times national champion and men's national double champion for 10 consecutive years with his brother Herman).From Leo spawned the Opa Leo Tjin-A-Djie Tennis tournament. Randolf Tjin-A-Djie was national champion for 1960.[57]

Education[edit]

Main article: Education in Suriname

Education in Suriname is compulsory until the age of 12,[58] and the nation had a net primary enrollment rate of 94% in 2004.[47] Literacy is very common, particularly among males.[47] The main university in the country is the Anton de Kom University of Suriname.

From elementary school to high school there are 13 grades. The elementary school has six grades, middle school four grades and high school three grades. Students take a test in the end of elementary school to determine whether they will go to the MULO (secondary modern school) or a middle school of lower standards like LBGO. Students from the elementary school wear a green shirt with jeans, while middle school students wear a blue shirt with jeans.

Students going from the second grade of middle school to the third grade have to choose between the business or science courses. This will determine what their major subjects will be. In order to go on to study math and physics, the student must have a total of 13 points. If the student has fewer points, he/she will go into the business courses or fail the grade.

Environmental preservation[edit]

On 21 March 2013 Suriname's REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP 2013) was approved by the member countries of the Participants Committee of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).[59] Member countries include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, UK, USA and the European Commission.[60]

Biodiversity[edit]

In October 2013, 16 international scientists researching the ecosystems during a three-week expedition in Suriname's Upper Palumeu River Watershed catalogued 1,378 species and found 60—including six frogs, one snake, and 11 fish—that may be previously unknown species.[61][62][63][64] According to the environmental non-profit Conservation International, which funded the expedition, Suriname's ample supply of fresh water is vital to the biodiversity and healthy ecosystems of the region.[65]

Suriname is said[by whom?] to be the only region where one variety[which?] of snakewood (Brosimum guianense), a rare shrub-like tree, is found.[citation needed] The harvesting of snakewood is restricted and the wood is expensive, being sold by the ounce in some instances.[citation needed]

Media[edit]

A popular newspaper is De Ware Tijd, however Times of Suriname surpassed De Ware Tijd as most read newspaper. The most populair source for sports news in SMEsport.[66] The only fully English online newspaper is Devsur: Development of Suriname.[67] Suriname has twenty-four radio stations, two broadcast through the Internet (Apintie and Radio10). There are twelve television sources: ABC(Ch.4), RBN(Ch.5), STVS(Ch.8), Apintie(Ch.10), ATV(Ch.12), Radika(Ch.14), SCCN(Ch.17), Trishul(Ch. 20), Garuda(Ch.23), Sangeetmala(Ch.26), SCTV(Ch.45) and Mustika(Ch.50). Also listened to is mArt, a broadcaster from Amsterdam founded by people from Suriname. Kondreman is one of the popular cartoons in Suriname.

In 2012, Suriname was ranked joint 22nd with Japan in the worldwide Press Freedom Index by the organization Reporters Without Borders.[68] This was ahead of the US (47th), the UK (28th), and France (38th).

Tourism[edit]

Royal Torarica, was opened in the night district of Paramaribo on the Suriname River[clarification needed] . The hotel industry is important to Suriname's economy. The rental of apartments, or the rent-a-house phenomenon, is also popular in Suriname.

Most tourists visit Suriname for the outstanding biodiversity of the pristine Amazonian rain forests in the south of the country, which are noted for their flora and fauna. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve is the biggest and one of the most popular reserves, along with the Brownsberg Nature Park which overlooks the Brokopondo Reservoir, the latter being one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. Tonka Island in the reservoir is home to a rustic eco-tourism project run by the Saramaccaner Maroons.[69] Pangi wraps and bowls made of calabashes are the two main products manufactured for tourists. The Maroons have learned that colorful and ornate pangis are popular with tourists.[70] Other popular decorative souvenirs are hand-carved purple-hardwood made into bowls, plates, canes, wooden boxes, and wall decors.

There are also many waterfalls throughout the country. Raleighvallen, or Raleigh Falls, is a 56,000-hectare (140,000-acre) nature reserve on the Coppename River, rich in bird life. Also are the Blanche Marie Falls on the Nickerie River and the Wonotobo Falls. Tafelberg Mountain in the centre of the country is surrounded by its own reserve – the Tafelberg Nature Reserve – around the source of the Saramacca River, as is the Voltzberg Nature Reserve further north on the Coppename River at Raleighvallen. In the interior are many Maroon and Amerindian villages, many of which have their own reserves that are generally open to visitors.

Suriname is one of the few countries in the world where at least one of each biome that the state possesses has been declared a wildlife reserve. Around 30% of the total land area of Suriname is protected by law as reserves.

Other attractions include plantations such as Laarwijk, which is situated along the Suriname River. This plantation can only be reached by boat via Domburg, in the north central Wanica District of Suriname.

Landmarks[edit]

The Jules Wijdenbosch Bridge is a bridge over the river Suriname between Paramaribo and Meerzorg in the Commewijne district. The bridge was built during the tenure of President Jules Albert Wijdenbosch (1996–2000) and was completed in 2000. The bridge is 52 metres (171 ft) high, and 1,504 metres (4,934 ft) long. It connects Paramaribo with Commewijne, a connection which previously could only be made by ferry. The purpose of the bridge was to facilitate and promote the development of the eastern part of Suriname. The bridge consists of two lanes (one lane each way) and is not accessible to pedestrians.

The Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul is 114 years old. Before it became a cathedral it was a theatre. The theatre was built in 1809 and burned down in 1820. The construction of the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral started on 13 January 1883.

In between the cathedral and the Presidential Palace is the popular palm garden Palmentuin.

Suriname is one of the few countries in the world where a synagogue is located next to a mosque.[71]

The two buildings are located next to each other in the centre of Paramaribo and have been known to share a parking facility during their respective religious rites, should they happen to coincide with one another.

A relatively new landmark is the Hindu Arya Dewaker temple in the Johan Adolf Pengelstraat in Wanica, Paramaribo, which was inaugurated in 2001. A special characteristic of the temple is that it does not have images of the Hindu divinities, as they are forbidden in the Arya Samaj, the Hindu movement to which the people who built the temple belong. Instead, the building is covered by many texts derived from the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures. The beautiful architecture makes the temple a tourist attraction.

Gallery[edit]

Airlines[edit]

Departures[edit]

Arrivals[edit]

Other national companies with an air operator certification[edit]

Notable natives[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Box, Ben, Footprint Focus Guide: Guyana, Guyane & Suriname, (Footprint Travel Guides, 2011)
  • Counter, S. Allen and David L. Evans, I Sought My Brother: An Afro-American Reunion, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981
  • Dew, Edward M., The Trouble in Suriname, 1975–93, (Greenwood Press, 1994)
  • Gimlette, John, Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge (Profile Books, 2011)
  • McCarthy Sr., Terrence J., A Journey into Another World: Sojourn in Suriname, (Wheatmark Inc., 2010)
  • Westoll, Adam, Surinam, (Old Street Publishing, 2009)

External links[edit]

Websites of the Government, President and National Assembly