Caribbean Report 01-04-2002



Table of Contents

1. You are listening to a special Easter Edition of Caribbean Report. Karen Weir takes you on a journey into the lives of an ancient people whose voices are seldom heard and who are rarely spoken about - the Bush Negroes of Suriname (00:00-00:25)
2. There are only three Maroon communities in the world: Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, Brazil’s Amazon jungles and Suriname’s forest interiors. Anthropologists credit Suriname’s Maroons with the greatest success at carrying on their African homeland’s customs. Paul Abena one of Suriname’s famous Maroons tells us about Suriname’s six Maroon communities and their chiefs or “Gaunmans” (00:26-01:52)
3. We hear Aleke music listened to by Suriname’s Maroons and Paul Abena tells us that a civil war which began in the interiors in 1986, forced the Bush Negroes to flee their homes there to live in crowed Paramaribo. Maroon Ronnie Brunswijk, a former Presidential bodyguard, led the insurgence and the Dutch government got involved in the war for their own economic and political interest (01:53-04:28)
4. Karen Weir gives the history of the [civil] war, highlighting Military Leader Colonel Désire Bouterse, [Ronnie] Brunswijk and the ruling government of the day, The Democratic Front. The war ended through a deal with the New Front Party and the signing of the Kourou Peace Accord. Terese, a Bush Negro, speaks to an Interpreter in Aukan’s dialect as to whether the [civil] war achieved its objectives of improving the social and economic status of the Maroons (04:29-06:19)
5. Paul Abena says the civil war, 1986 to 1991, has caused much physical and mental damage to Bush Negroes who had to flee their villages in the interior and make a living elsewhere. Bush Negro men were unable to get jobs in the three forest industries: bauxite, timber or gold mining and this has had a devastating effect on Maroon family life. (07:39 to 07:48 – no audio). The President of Suriname, Ronald Venetiaan explains (06:20-08:38)
6. Dr. Carol Vlassoff, the Director of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), links the lengthy absenteeism of men from their Maroon communities to ill health in Bush Negro women and the elderly. She adds that things are not necessarily better for Maroons in the city, as people not as educated often do not find work and some resort to violence or drug related activity thereby affecting their health, particularly their mental health, negatively (08:38-09:56)
7. Former Maroon warrior Ronnie Brunswijk, now a successful entrepreneur, feels the government has reneged on its promise to develop Maroon communities and consult them before granting concessions on their lands to mining companies. Fellow Maroon Paul Abena, however, believes that the Maroon community must become more self-reliant and stop looking to the government or others to assist them (09:57-10:46)
8. One area the government admits losing battle in is assisting the Maroon community in preventing mercury poisoning of their water supply by rogue gold miners from Brazil. Dr. Wim Udenhout Executive Director of the Paramaribo Offices of Conservation International says the problem is widespread but government claims it is working hard to raise the standard of living for Bush Negroes and Former President Jules Wijdenbosch, agrees (10:47-12:29)
9. Karen Weir says unemployment is still highest amongst Maroons compared to any other ethnic group in Suriname. Whilst driving around Paramaribo, poverty is visible in the numerous shanti dwellings scattered across the capital (12:30-12:44)
10. We hear the voice of a famous Maroon female singer warning women to seek other ways than prostitution to make money. Many Bush Negroes heed this call and businessman Ronnie Brunswijk and broadcaster and media owner Paul Abena are examples of two highly respected Maroons. Paul Abena concludes by saying that the Maroon people are not yet considered “as equal” but the time has come for them to do something about this (12:45-15:22)