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Viewing cable 08PARAMARIBO128, CORRUPTION IN SURINAME: A HOW-TO-MANUAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08PARAMARIBO128 2008-03-28 10:10 2011-02-10 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paramaribo
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