FOREST PEOPLES PROGRAMME, PRESS RELEASE, 4 February 1997

SURINAME

PEOPLE OF KWAMALASEMUTU WANT GOLDEN STAR RESOURCES TO LEAVE THEIR LAND AND ASK THAT THEIR LAND RIGHTS BE RECOGNIZED BY THE GOVERNMENT


A delegation from the Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname went to Kwamalasemutu last week to investigate complaints raised by village leaders concerning the activities of Canadian mining company, Golden Star Resources and Surinamese company, NaNa Resources. They want Golden Star and NaNa to leave their land and they want their land rights to be recognized by the Government so that they and future generations may leave in peace and security. Kwamalasemutu is located in the South of Suriname near the border with Brazil and is one of the largest indigenous villages in Suriname, with approximately 1500-2000 persons from nine tribes. Kwamalasemutu is also located in a gold and diamond concession held by NaNa Resources, that also includes the Sipilawini Nature Reserve. The Nature Reserve is the only place on Earth where the endangered Oko Pipi frog can be found.

The VIDS was asked to investigate by the Head Captain of the village at the Gran Krutu of Indigenous and Maroon peoples held recently in Galibi. Complaints were also raised at the Third Annual Meeting of the VIDS held last year. The VIDS was informed that in November 1995, late Granman Pesife and the Captains of the village had signed a letter to the Ministry of Natural Resources stating that they had no objections to Henk Naarendorp of NaNa Resources obtaining a concession to prospect for gold and diamonds on their land. The leaders had refused to sign the letter, that was written by Naarendorp claiming to represent Golden Star, on more four separate occasions before finally giving in. The village leaders said that Naarendorp had put a lot of pressure on the village leaders to sign; that he had used a translator who had misinformed them about the contents of the letter and that even today , over a year later, they still do not fully understand what the letter means.

After obtaining a large prospecting concession, Naarendorp allowed Golden Star to work there. Since then, village leaders have had a number of meetings with Golden Star, Naarendorp and NDP Chairman, Bouterse. Each time they said that they do not want Golden Star on their land, that they did not understand the implications of signing the letter and that they want their land rights recognized. In the last of these meeting, late Granman Pesife was told by Bouterse that Golden Star will work on their land and that there will be no more discussion on the subject. International law states that a lack of undersatnding of the law on the part of Indigenous and Maroon peoples may not be taken advantage of by government, multinationals or anyone else and that any agreement or understanding concluded in this way are void and unenforceable.

Golden Star is not working in the area now, but the people of Kwamalasemutu are afraid that when they return they may be forced to relocate, be denied access to their hunting grounds and agricultural plots and be mistreated and intimidated by armed security guards and the police just like the people of Nieuw Koffiekamp. They are also afraid that Brazilian gold diggers will invade their land when they discover that Golden Star is working there and that their environment will be destroyed by the garimperos or the company. The people say that Golden Star has already polluted the water where they were working and they have seen desert where forests used to stand in Brazil and they do not want this to happen to their land.

The VIDS supports the people of Kwamalasemutu in demanding that Golden Star leaves their territory and that their land rights, as defined by international law, be recognized and respected by the Government. The same applies to all other Indigenous and Maroon peoples in Suriname, especially those that find themselves in concessions held by Golden Star, NaNa Resorces or any other of the multinationals that are presently invading their ancestral lands. This is especially the case for the Indigenous community of Kawemhakan, also located in a concession held by Golden Star and NaNa Resorces, where Golden Star recently announced drilling results at a site called Antino that indicates that there may be commercial quantities of gold in the area. Like the people of Nieuw Koffiekamp, the people of Kawemhakan were not consulted or even informed about the granting of a concession on their land. We urge the Government, as did the Gran Krutu held in Galibi, not to give any further concession until their land and other human rights are fully recognized in the Constitution and other laws of Suriname.


For further information: Forest Peoples Programme, 8 Chapel Row, Chadlington, OX7 3NA, England Tel: 01608 676 691 Fax: + 44 1608 676 743 Email: wrm@gn.apc.org

The Forest Peoples Programme is an affiliate of the World Rainforest Movement.