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Viewing cable 07PARAMARIBO120, ANOTHER MINISTER-LEVEL CORRUPTION SCANDAL IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07PARAMARIBO120 2007-03-13 14:02 2011-02-10 16:04 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Paramaribo
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