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Cablegate: Corruption in Suriname: A How-to-Manual

VZCZCXRO7215
PP RUEHAO
DE RUEHPO #0128/01 0881054
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281054Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0082
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 1525
RUEHAO/AMCONSUL CURACAO PRIORITY 1242

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARAMARIBO 000128

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

WHA/CAR FOR JACKIE ROSHOLT, INR FOR BOB CARHART, USEMBASSY
BRASILIA FOR BRIAN BUTCHER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2018
TAGS: KCRM PGOV NS
SUBJECT: CORRUPTION IN SURINAME: A HOW-TO-MANUAL

REF: A. 2007 PARAMARIBO 470
B. 2007 PARAMARIBO 444
C. 2007 PARAMARIBO 120

Classified By: Ambassador for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY. This cable details methods of small-scale,
endemic corruption in Suriname. While large scale corruption
is common and makes the news, small scale corruption is
pervasive (ref A). Current rejection by Government of
Suriname (GOS) officials of corruption allegations in the
U.S. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR)
released February 29, as well as contentious discussions in
the Surinamese National Assembly over a new corruption law
highlight continued denial at the highest levels. END SUMMARY

--------------------------------------
All the Land You Want for Free--or Fee
--------------------------------------

2. (C) In Suriname, plots of land are often the currency of
corruption. Though approximately 65% of the country is
uninhabited, land is hard to come by for the average
Surinamer. Ownership of government land is regulated by a
byzantine maze of laws which create opportunities for
corruption. The country's legislation states that every
Surinamer over the age of 18 is entitled to a piece of
government land for a nominal yearly rent, and entrusts the
Land Management Office (LMO) with the distribution and
registration of these plots. In practice, the road from
submitting an application to the actual granting of a plot is
long, arduous, and rampant with corruption. Those who are
able pay large sums of money ease their way past the many
procedures the LMO demands--and those with political
connections obtain exceptions--while the average Surinamer
can wait literally a lifetime before his or her request is
granted. It is rumored that employees at the LMO take bribes
for speeding up grants of land requests, and politicians are
accused of selling land, obtaining it for free (ref A), or
giving it away as political favors. Rabin Parmessar,
prominent local politician, was asked by players on the
soccer club he heads for cell phones in the presence of a
Post employee. Parmessar reportedly said, wait until I'm
President in 2010, and I'll give you all the land you want
(instead).

---------------------------------
Two Paychecks are Better than One
---------------------------------

3. (C) The majority of political parties in Suriname are
ethnically based, and tend to reward their constituents
directly with government largesse. Rewards range from plots
of land, to job contracts, to jobs in the civil service.
While packing Ministries with political allies is in itself
not corrupt, the practice of collecting pay without work
is--having multiple jobs for which one may or may not show
up is common in Suriname. To cite just one example, XXXXXXXXXXXX, head of a non-governmental children's rights
organization, told Post that of the eleven GOS social workers
he deals with, eight are not functioning, and three are
not functioning well. Similarly, in Suriname's interior,
semi-autonomous traditional tribes make all sorts of
arguments to create new (paid) dignitaries, through which the
funding is stretched, said Minister of Regional Development
Michel Felisi. Often, the line between corruption and
patronage is hard to discern; when asked what the economy of
the poor, under-populated district of Coronie is based on,
Parliamentarian Remie Tarnadi told Post simply, the State.

----------------------------------------
Cost of a Permit: A Couple of Cookies
----------------------------------------

4. (C) Corruption can be found at whatever level one
chooses. According to Robbie Simson, Director of a bank in
Suriname,s rural center of Nickerie, if the owner of a
corner store has a problem with his permit, a couple of
cookies or a Fruta (a local soft drink) for a visiting
inspector are enough to take care of his problem. Rural
parliamentarian Remie Tarnadi told PolOff matter-of-factly
that he gives his salary away to help his people, a coded
reference to a simple vote-buying and patronage mechanism.
Bureaucrats in 2007 were caught adding numerals to the money
figures in invoices and splitting the profits with
contractors, and splitting up large payment vouchers into
smaller amounts just under the U.S. $1,400 minimum to escape
regulation. Lax enforcement, coupled with the practice of

PARAMARIBO 00000128 002 OF 002


political parties to use government institutions as
self-staffed fiefdoms which don't communicate with other arms
of the large bureaucracy, and a lack of transparency all make
these sorts of routine corruption difficult to track or
punish.

--------------------------------------------- -----
A Private Sector Example: Kickbacks in Journalism
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (SBU) Corruption is by no means limited to the huge
State sector and its employees. One example is kickback
schemes in journalism. Most journalists work freelance, and
competition for news stories is high. According to a Post
employee who worked as a journalist, Surinamese journalists
kick back some of the money they receive for writing stories
to editors who give them assignments. For example, if a
story is worth $20, the editor will pick a journalist he can
count on, give him or her the story, and get $5 of the $20
back when it is written, while the journalist receives $15
and the business owner pays the bill. Journalists who have
contracts complain they get fewer stories because there is
nothing in it for the editors. In addition, journalists take
money from companies and political parties in return for
positive coverage, or extort it.

--------------------------------------
Corruption in the News: Deny and Delay
--------------------------------------

6. (C) The GOS is not ready to tackle the problem. After
the February 29 release of the U.S. International Narcotics
Control Strategy Report (INCSR), GOS Attorney General Subhas
Punwasi was among several prominent justice sector officials
who reacted with public outrage to the sentence
...drug-related corruption of the police, courts and
military... inhibits the GOS,s ability to identify,
apprehend, and prosecute narcotic traffickers. Punwasi told
the media, that is absolutely not true... on the contrary,
we know with certainty that we are holding our own against
the mafia. This despite being told directly several months
ago by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents about some
of the problems that have now been published in the INCSR.
Meanwhile, in February the coalition and opposition, after a
bitter debate about whose administrations had been more
corrupt, jointly sent the newly minted corruption draft law
back to the Ministry of Justice and Police for adjustments in
a rare show of solidarity, citing inconsistencies and a lack
of clarity. The law had been years in preparation. It is
unclear how much of Parliament's hesitation has to do with
self-defense, and how much with legitimate objections.

7. (C) COMMENT: Suriname has made some progress in
tackling high-profile cases of corruption (refs B, C) in
recent years. However, corruption in myriad forms remains an
accepted practice in Suriname. It is both a method of income
generation and a way of bypassing bureaucratic
inefficiencies, and will likely remain vibrant as long as the
bloated state sector continues to employ a stunning estimated
50% of the formal workforce. END COMMENT
SCHREIBER HUGHES

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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