Grandscale timber smuggling in Suriname

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Angelic del Castilho

Open letter to the President of the Republic of Suriname, His Excellency Chan Santokhi

Paramaribo, 29 April 2021

To: The President of the Republic of Suriname

H.E. Chandrikapersad Santokhi

Reg: Grandscale timber smuggling on 23 April 2021

Dear President,

The recent interception of the mega-cargo of illegal roundwood in our port has underlined the urgent need to prosecute rigorous and without pardon those who want to further destroy our economy and society by violating the laws of the country. The work of the Flying Brigade and the Director of SBB are a strong example of commitment to good and fair governance towards our society. This deserves more than 100% support from all parts of the government but particularly from you as head of government.

The criminal investigation led by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which enjoys to a large extent the trust of society, must progress without any interference. Any act that gives rise to the idea as now suggested in  certain circles in society that there is interference in the investigation will have to be condemned by the government and the guarantee must be given that the Trias Politica is of paramount importance to the government; otherwise it will not only be a great demotivation for our Surinamese who have worked to expose this criminal act, but even more so pose a serious threat to the sustainable development of our country. In order to maintain your intention to fight corruption, we urge the government to ensure that there is absolutely not any cause for mistrust towards the investigation, including mistrust due to poor communication.

Suriname can only be saved with leadership that does not give in to the interests of the criminals who want to make our society a ‘gangster’ paradise.

Furthermore, President, we once again call on you to stop the export of round timber and to implement policy for an integral timber industry! We have already indicated this to you in the coalition consultation talks. We  are not alone in this call. For years, not only environmental organizations but also the Surinamese Timber Union have called on our governments to stop this destructive policy. The time for this is now!

In summary:

In line with your own intentions when you announced the Flying Brigade and redesigned SBB, illegal timber shipments must be tightly cured. (https://www.srherald.com/suriname/2021/01/08/staat-loopt-us-130-miljoen-mis-aan-inkomsten-houtexport/)(https://www.starnieuws.com/index.php/welcome/index/nieuwsitem/63302 ).

We cannot afford the losses of, in your opinion, at least USD 130 million per year. Moreover, criminal cartels cannot have room to move freely and with impunity in our country.

It is of the utmost importance to keep your word as you indicated recently in conversation with IMF Managing Director Mitsuhiro Furasawa: “… again indicated that work is being done to improve the reputation of our country internationally and to strengthen confidence in Suriname’s economic development opportunities.”

President Santokhi we stress once again that in every justified act in the fight for good governance you can count on our support. We have every confidence in our Public Prosecutor’s Office and count on the government of Suriname to provide full space and necessary support to our judicial authorities to carry out their work to the best of our knowledge in the interests of our society. Suriname deserves better!

On behalf of the Democratic Alternative91 (DA’91) Angelic del Castilho, Chair.

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