Dutch prime minister visits Suriname for first time in 14 years
After 14 years, a Dutch prime minister will again set foot on Surinamese soil on Monday. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister Liesje Schreinemacher for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation will pay a two-day visit to Suriname's president Chan Santokhi. The last prime minister to visit Suriname was Jan Peter Balkenende in 2008.
For Suriname, the arrival of Rutte is proof that the government has regained international trust. Rutte's visit can be seen as confirmation of the collaboration, Santokhi said on Friday.
One of the highlights of the visit is the speech that Rutte will give in the Surinamese parliament. A conversation that Rutte will have about the history of slavery and possible reparations is also an important item on the agenda. Together with Santokhi, he will lay a wreath at the monument to the December Murders in Fort Zeelandia. The visit will conclude on Tuesday with a look at the Heineken brewery.
The main purpose of the visit is to strengthen the cooperation between the Netherlands and Suriname. Relations between the countries have improved considerably in the last two years after Chan Santokhi won the elections in May 2020. He then took over from the previous president Desi Bouterse, who was involved in the December Murders. Because of this, the relationship with the Netherlands cooled down from 2010 to 2020.
The Surinamese government has high expectations for Rutte's visit. Santokhi hopes that the Netherlands will intensify its aid to Suriname in various areas. Even now, since the relationship was restored in 2020, the Netherlands has provided the necessary support to Suriname. For example, there was intensive aid during the coronavirus pandemic and the Netherlands stepped in at the beginning of this year when some areas in the country were faced with flooding.
Other areas in which Suriname would like help from the Netherlands are, for example, cooperation in the fields of public health and agriculture, improving safety in the country and strengthening institutions. Topics such as family reunification and visa-free travel from Suriname to the Netherlands are also on the agenda.
The average Surinamese citizen does not seem to harbor especially high expectations about Rutte's arrival, however. Criticism of Santokhi has increased in recent months. In addition to the ever-rising prices in shops, the Surinamese government has to deal with a number of major problems, such as the impending bankruptcy of the airline SLM and a financial scandal at the Ministry of Finance. The many appointments of "friends and family" are also a matter of criticism for many Surinamese people.
Reporting by ANP