339. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Suriname1

132909. Roger Channel. Subject: Concern of Some Middle-Level Career Officials Regarding the Future and Stability of the Surinamese Government (DOI: May 1978).

Following repeat CIA 226315 Action DIRNSA, Dept of State, DIA, Treasury Dept, White House situation room, National Security Council Staff, and CIA OPSCEN dated May 20, 1978.

Quote: Secret Noforn Wnintel. Cite CIA 226315. NSA for ZKZK 00 DLS DE (for NSOC); State for INR; DIA for DIA, SWS, CIA/NMCC.


Dist: 19 May 1978


This is an information report, not finally evaluated intelligence report class Secret-Wnintel-Noforn-Nocontract.

Subject: Concern of some middle-level career officials regarding the future and stability of the Surinamese Government (DOI: May 1978)

Source: [5 lines not declassified]

1. There is increasing concern among middle-level career officials that both the executive and legislative branches of the Government of Surinam are weaker and less effective than in the previous governments. ([less than 1 line not declassified] Comment: Similar comments have been reported from other sources, [1½ lines not declassified] For example, one of these sources, [less than 1 line not declassified] said in late April that the new Minister of Finance, Lesley Goede, and representatives of several local business firms, such as Kirstens, the largest retail enterprise in Paramaribo, and the Reli Company, are upset about the government’s inability to pay its bills.) The middle-level officials believe there is a strong possibility that the current government may not survive its full four-year term and that there will be greater instability in the country in the months ahead than at any time since independence. While they agree that Prime Minister Henck Arron is aware of the seriousness of the situation, they believe that he is unsure of what steps to take to resolve the current problems. (Source Comment: should Arron be forced to step down for health or other reasons, the individual most likely to succeed him is Olton Vangenderen, Deputy [Page 833] Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs and District Administration, who is believed to be very capable.)

2. According to [less [Page 834] than 1 line not declassified] Arron himself is not operating at the level he did prior to his heart attack in February.2 He frequently stays away from Parliament meetings, both for health reasons and out of disgust over the lack of seriousness which often prevails at the meetings. Public debates continue for hours on relatively insignificant issues while discussions on critical matters are postponed. The tactic of filibustering is fairly new in Surinam but recently has been used with decidedly adverse results. Several of the more capable Cabinet members in the former government are no longer in office and their absence has been felt. For example, Edward Hoost, former Minister of Justice and Police, is believed to have been much more effective than is his successor. Even Edward Bruma, leader of the Surinam National Party (PNR) and controversial former Minister of Economic Affairs, is considered to have been more able than some of the new Cabinet members. In the Parliament, the Hindustani Reformed Party (VHP) had some effective legislators during the term of the last government who are no longer serving.

3. The civil servants federation and the teachers unions, both powerful and both controlled by the PNR, are preparing to cause serious difficulties for the government. (Source Comment: Bruma and other PNR leaders, who in the past government were primarily involved in political activities, now have more time to devote to labor agitation.) ([less than 1 line not declassified] Comment: For information concerning recent competition among labor federations and its potential effects on the political environment in Surinam, see Embassy Paramaribo A–13, dated 3 March 1978.)3

4. Another serious problem facing the Arron government is the one involving the border situation with Guyana which continues to be tense and which could lead to open hostilities between the two countries. (Source Comment: A Surinamese security official who recently visited the border area claims that the people on both sides get along very well and that the problem is only between the two governments. This official feels the problem could be alleviated if Surinam would only establish a diplomatic mission in Georgetown. Even though the Guyanese have a mission in Paramaribo, he feels that insufficient communications between the two sides is at the heart of the problem.) ([less than 1 line not declassified] Comment: For the most recent reporting on this issue, see Embassy Paramaribo 0593, dated 26 April 1978.)4

5. ACQ: [less than 1 line not declassified]

6. Field Dissem: None.

Report class Secret—warning notice-sensitive intelligence sources and methods involved—not releasable to foreign nationals not releasable to contractors or contractor/consultants classified by recorded reporting officer.


  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Roger Channel, Paramaribo, 1963–1979. Secret; Roger Channel. Drafted by Tumminia.
  2. In telegram 260 from Paramaribo, February 17, the Embassy reported that Arron was hospitalized for heart problems on February 14. He resumed his duties as Prime Minister soon afterward. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780076–0105)
  3. Not printed. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P780039–0929)
  4. The brief telegram is actually dated April 25. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780177–0129)