25 March 2010

Last days in Suriname

The Presidential Palace where La Condamine was invited to stay by the dutch governor Mauricius.
24/3. During our stay in Suriname we slept in Camp David, about 30 km south of Paramaribo. During his 5-day stay in Suriname, La Condamine enjoyed the hospitality of the dutch governor Mauricius. He stayed in the presidential palace that had been renewed in 1730. However, in 1742, the palace was in such a bad state that Mauricius continued to live on his plantation, using the house of his son for receptions and banquets. La Condamine did not complain and only writes that he measured the northern latitude and performed "some other observations" before leaving on a dutch ship for Amsterdam.

He measured: "5 degrés 49 minutes septentrionale".
The GPS, borrowed from Carlos Mena in Quito gave: N 5° 49' 33'' and W 55° 9' 7''. A fortuitous correspondence?

Presntly, the Suriname president does not live in this colonial house; it is only used for receptions.

That Mauricius invited La Condamine to come to Paramaribo offering him his house, a passage to Holland with a passport "en cas de rupture entre la France et les Etats Généraux" seems an indication of a good relationship between the two colonies. I wonder whether this relationship is still so good. In Cayenne, for instance, people hardly knew who Bouterse was and if they knew they didn't want to speak about it. It was therefore a surprise to hear from Phil Boré about a radio program of "France-Inter", with the following introduction:

"Patrick Pesnot;  samedi 27 février 2010
La guerre civile au Suriname
D’aucuns l’ont appelée la Babel tropicale… Un curieux petit pays métissé, où l’on croise des créoles, des Indiens, des Amérindiens, des Javanais, des Chinois et des Européens… Et où, malgré le fait que la langue officielle soit le néerlandais, on parle au moins 15 dialectes. Je veux parler du Suriname, l’ancienne Guyane hollandaise, un Etat situé au nord du Brésil, coincé entre le Guyana et notre Guyane française.
Mais pourquoi évoquer aujourd’hui avec Monsieur X ce pays lointain dont la plupart d’entre nous ignorent l’histoire et même la localisation exacte ? D’abord parce qu’à lui seul le Suriname concentre un certain nombre des dangers qui pèsent sur notre planète : une déforestation démesurée, une exploitation irraisonnée des richesses naturelles et la pollution qui en découle, une misère latente, une violence endémique, une situation politique chaotique, une corruption latente, un trafic de drogue en expansion et, coiffant toutes ses difficultés et les expliquant en partie, la fièvre de l’or…
Il faut ajouter que le voisinage du Suriname avec la Guyane française ne laisse pas d’inquiéter… Car le Suriname exporte aussi ses propres maux sur l’autre rive du fleuve Maroni… Là où se trouve la précieuse base européenne de lancement de fusées de Kourou… Autant dire l’importance stratégique du Suriname dont, pourtant, les médias parlent rarement.
Monsieur X propose donc de donner un coup de projecteur sur cette région méconnue et d’analyser les menaces qu’elle représente…"

I am trying to obtain the rest of the discussion which sounded to me quite good and nuanced.

Enjoying a glass of rum and eating peanuts, we had a long discussion in Camp David about the revolution or coup in 1980, the killings in December 1982 and the civil war that followed between Bouterse (with many indians in the army) and Brunswijk (Jungle commando of Bosland Creolen), lasting about 3 years. Dennis and Dole had quite different experiences. Dennis knew most of the army people that were involved in the coup and emphasized the difficult decisians they had to take. He cited Bouterse saying that it is most dangerous "to push a peaceful man too far".
Dole, on the other hand, had just started his study at the law faculty and joined the "destabilization forces", participating in all kinds of demonstrations. When the killings occurred he told how they felt defeated....

A complicating factor in Suriname is that this is a small community (less than 500.000) in which everybody seems to know each other. This became more clear to me when Dennis introduced me to Ronny Brunswijk. We had entered a supermarket where mainly Brazilian people and gold seekers come. I was looking there for jam of the palmfruit "Podosiri" or "Asai". I thought Dennis was making a joke with me and shook hands with a big, laughing, black Bosland Creool. But it was Brunswijk indeed. As member of the "National Assemblee" he had obtained land where gold was present. That was probably his reason for coming there....

Looking for birds with Otte Ottema in Peperpot and Weg naar Zee.
On Tuesday (23 March) we fetched Otte Ottema at his house and drove to Peperpot where it just became light. We saw some beautiful birds like Little cuckoo, Cinnamon attila, Blackish antbird, Blackcrested antshrike (een paartje) and finally the beautiful Greentailed Jacamar! On the Weg naar Zee, we saw many more birds like the large Savanna and Blackcoloured Hawk.

Last evening: With Paul Woei in the restaurant of his son, beautifully built in the old printing office of the journal "De Vrije Stem", bombed in 1982 by Bouterse.
The last evening we went to the restaurant of Paul Woei's son, beautifully furnished and decorated in an old printing office of the journal "De Vrije Stem". For next year, Paul Woei told us, he had made an appointment with a Suriname television station for an interview to tell about La Condamine's visit to the Guyana's. So, the story has not yet ended.....

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