GUYANA–POLITICS-Jagdeo wants to deepen relations with Suriname

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – President Bharrat Jagdeo says he hopes to work with the newly elected head of state in Suriname “to deepen relations between the two countries”.

Former military strongman and dictator, Desi Bouterse, was on Monday elected as President of Suriname, after gaining the required votes in Parliament. He will be sworn in on August 3.

In the May 25 general elections, Bouterse’s Mega Combination faction won 23 seats.

A two-thirds majority in the 51-seat parliament is required to elect the President of Suriname and Bouterse was able to garner 36 votes after gaining the support of some of the smaller parties in Parliament.

But Bouterse, 64, is due in court on July 23 to answer charges that he was responsible for the deaths of the 15 people in December 1982 and if convicted, could face up to 20 years in jail.

Bouterse first seized power in Suriname 1980 and again in 1990 when he overthrew the elected government.

In 1999, a Dutch court convicted him in absentia of trafficking cocaine to the Netherlands, but he has avoided an 11-year prison term because the two countries do not have an extradition treaty.

The Dutch government has already said it would restrict contacts with Bouterse to “functional necessities”.

In a brief statement, President Jagdeo, the first Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leader to comment on Bouterse’s election, said that he was looking forward to working with the former military strongman to improve relations between the two CARICOM countries.

“It is my hope that we can work together to further improve and deepen relations between our countries,” he said, adding that he hoped the two countries would work towards solving a number of broader issues.

In 2000, Suriname’s military forced a Canadian oil exploration company that was granted an oil exploration licence by Guyana to leave the Corentyne River.

Guyana took the dispute to the United Nations Tribunal on the Law of the Sea that ruled in its favour in 2004.

But the two countries have not fully settled the issue and Jagdeo in his congratulatory message to Bouterse said “I am looking forward to perusing this desire with you for the mutual satisfaction and benefits of our peoples”.