Speech by the President of the Republic of Suriname, H.E. Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan


Your Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen,

On behalf of the people and the Government of Suriname, I welcome you in our multilingual country. A more diverse country than Suriname is hard to find in the Caribbean.

Suriname became a full member of the Caricom on 4th July 1995. Ever since our entry into this organization, Suriname has faced a number of challenges, which have been largely due to differences in language and culture. For example, Suriname as a multilingual, non-English speaking society, has had to function in the unilingual English-speaking Caricom organisation. Our Roman law based legal system has been difficult for our fellow Caricom members to understand, who are accustomed to their common-law system, and naturally also vice versa.

It has been challenging for Suriname on the one hand, and fellow Caricom members and the Caricom Secretariat on the other hand, to fully understand technical documents written in English, respectively Dutch, and it has been even more difficult to propagate a good understanding of these documents among the general public.

Naturally, this has caused delays in preparing regional and national documents, especially when it comes to drafting legislation and implementing regional decisions. And it has led to a lack of full knowledge, a full understanding, and a full appreciation of one another’s societies.

In this day and age, ICT and information sharing provide a good opportunity to expand trade relations and deepen the integration of the region. Language barriers should not impede this.

Suriname made several efforts in the past to deal with the language and translation issue in the region. In 2002, Cariforum Ministers were discussing the review of the rules and procedures of Cariforum, and one of the issues was the choice of working languages and the official languages of Cariforum. Suriname used this opportunity to propose a Caribbean Regional Information and Translation Institute (CRITI), and with the support of this proposal by Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic the Cariforum Ministers approved the establishment of this institute.

Thanks to the support received from the EU, which has experience with the language issue and understands the consequences of language barriers that can result in misinterpretation and miscommunication, this regional institute has been realized.

The Regional Institute will have spin-off effects. Besides its core role of providing certified translations of important documents and dealing with information sharing, the institute will be able to provide regional information that can benefit individuals, as well as universities. Furthermore, important decisions of the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Caricom Regional Competition Commission will in future be available in different languages, so that we can finally truly speak of general access to justice.

Today, therefore, is an auspicious day in the history of the Cariforum Region and for Suriname in particular, as host of this first Cariforum regional institution. We are especially happy and proud, because it is the first regional institution that is headquartered in Suriname. The Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation of Suriname, has done its utmost to live up to the expectations, and has spared no resources to be able to present you and CRITI with this infrastructure.

As host country, we are fully aware of our responsibilities, and we guarantee the basic services and requirements. To this end, we will sign the headquarters agreement with the Cariforum Secretary General giving CRITI its legal status – which is essential for its operations.

I congratulate all of us with this important regional institution. Rest assured that we will do our utmost to make this institution a success.

I thank you!

Merci beaucoup! Muchísimas gracias! Dank u wel!