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Cablegate: Another Minister-Level Corruption Scandal In

VZCZCXRO3862
RR RUEHGR
DE RUEHPO #0120/01 0721405
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131405Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9190
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHAO/AMCONSUL CURACAO 1115
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 1583
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARAMARIBO 000120

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CAR - LLUFTIG, MBUFFINGTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL NS
SUBJECT: ANOTHER MINISTER-LEVEL CORRUPTION SCANDAL IN
SURINAME

REF: 06 Paramaribo 38, 06 Paramaribo 29, 05 Paramaribo 589

PARAMARIBO 00000120 001.2 OF 002


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On March 6 opposition parliamentarian
Jiwan Sital presented documents in Parliament which
allegedly detail that the 30th birthday party of Alice
Amafo, the Minister of Transport, Communication, and
Tourism (TCT) was financed out of the Ministry's budget.
Newspapers published copies of signed invoices clearly
marked Minister Amafo's birthday party, and reported that
the Ministry funded the Minister's 30th birthday for an
amount equal to at least U.S. $12,850. The alleged
corruption has led to calls for the resignation of the
Minister. Amafo, inexperienced and unskilled in handling
the press, appears an easy target for dismissal. However,
the strong support of important coalition figure Ronnie
Brunswijk will make it difficult for President Venetiaan to
fire Amafo, as such an action could risk disbanding the
coalition, resulting in the possible fall of the Venetiaan
administration. END SUMMARY

------------------------
A lavish birthday party
------------------------

2. (U) Suriname's Government Accounts Act requires
Council of Ministers approval for expenditures between
4,000 and 30,000 SRD (approx. U.S. $430 and $10,700). For
expenditures above 30,000 SRD, Ministries have to offer a
public tender. While the total cost of the birthday party
is estimated at SRD 75,000 (USD 26,785), it is alleged that
36,000 SRD (USD 12,850) came out of the Ministry's budget.
Parliamentarian Jiwan Sital of the opposition party A-1
charges that a birthday party organizing committee was
established within the Ministry of Transport,
Communication, and Tourism, and that the committee took the
money out of the budget in lots of less than 4,000 per item
in order to side-step the Accounts Act. Some of the
receipts were made out to a catering company owned by
Amafo's mother. In addition, according to Sital the
committee pressured parastatal companies such as the
telecommunication company Telesur, the national transport
company, and the tourism authority, all of which fall
directly under Amafo's Ministry, to donate large sums of
money for the birthday party.

-------------------------------
Jaded Public, Upset Politicians
-------------------------------

3. (U) The latest scandal for the government follows
other scandals at the Ministries of Public Works, at
Agriculture, Fisheries, and Animal Husbandry in 2005, and
the implication of former Minister of Trade and Industry
Siegfried Gilds in a money laundering scandal in 2006.
Public reaction to the birthday party scandal has ranged
from calls for firing and return of the money to reminders
that Amafo is far from the first to engage in questionable
use of her office. While members of the opposition and
some from the coalition have called for Amafo's immediate
resignation, President Ronald Venetiaan has tried to defuse
the situation, saying that the government will analyze all
the information first and report back to Parliament on
Tuesday March 13.

----------------------
Stand By Your Minister
----------------------

4. (SBU) Amafo is a member of coalition partner A-
Combination. Ronny Brunswijk, former rebel leader during
the interior war in the late 1980's and early 1990's and
currently a member of parliament and the most powerful
figure in the A-Combination, argued publicly that the civil
servants at the Ministry of TCT should have known the
regulations in the Government Accounts Act and should have
informed the Minister: it was their duty to protect her
because of her inexperience. A-Combination stated on March
8 that it will back up its Minister on this issue. The
reasons may be more than political: Amafo is the subject of
persistent rumors that she is pregnant, and Brunswijk is
widely believed to be the father.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: President Venetiaan is trying very
hard to keep his eight party coalition together and so must
choose between firing Minister Amafo or letting her retain

PARAMARIBO 00000120 002.2 OF 002


her ministerial position to keep A-Combination happy.
Neither is an attractive option; if A-Combination stands
behind Minister Amafo, firing her could disband the
coalition and bring down the government; but avoiding the
issue or making excuses for Amafo could cause public
outrage and would certainly increase already strong public
disgust with the government. Post expects Venetiaan to put
the skills he has honed in previous scandals to good use -
Surinamese politics is nothing if not nuanced. If Minister
Amafo is indeed pregnant, announcing as much and having
Amafo resign on grounds of health and family concerns
presents the option of using one scandal to nip another in
the bud. END COMMENT

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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