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Indigenous groups reject French activities on Surinamese territory
By Ivan Cairo
Caribbean Net News Suriname Correspondent
Updated Aug 3, 2007 - 12:37:00 PM

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Reports have surfaced that French army troops entered Surinamese rivers, destroying the gold mining equipment of several small scale miners operating in the area.
PARAMARIBO,Suriname (Caribbean Net News) - Indigenous groups in Suriname recently presented a petition to the Surinamese government and the French ambassador to Suriname, protesting against French activities in Suriname’s south eastern border area with French Guiana, local and international media reported.

The Organization of Indigenous People (OIS) submitted the letter after the French army allegedly ordered the tribal groups not to hunt and fish in the area in question—a stretch of land between the Marowijne and Litani Rivers France is claiming as its territory.

Reports have surfaced that French army troops entered Surinamese rivers, destroying the gold mining equipment of several small scale miners operating in the area. OIS chairman Nardo Aloema presented the petition to French ambassador Jean-Marie Bruno, who is leaving Paramaribo shortly, as his 3-year term in the country has come to an end. President Ronald Venetiaan, who also received a copy of the petition, noted that authorities of both governments will address the concerns, media reports said.

Proposals from the French government to designate the disputed area as a two-million-hectare protected nature reserve have angered the Indigenous communities, since fishing, hunting and other forestry activities that are their main livelihood would be prohibited.

OIS-president Nardo Aloema was quoted as saying by Agence France Press (AFP) that “without our say, the French government created the park and although our landowning rights are not on paper yet, this is a violation of our human rights.”

According to Mr. Aloema, the French authorities are trespassing on Surinamese territory. He further claimed that the French Gendarmerie also destroyed property of the Indigenous people in the area, prompting the chiefs of six tribal communities to lodge a complaint with the Surinamese authorities.

Ambassador Bruno confirmed an incident in the area, stating the France regards the Litani River as the official border with Suriname and therefore the French troops had a legal right to target gold miners and other individuals in the area.

Mr. Aloema warned that if the French continue their activities on Surinamese soil, this could result in a serious border issue.

Indigenous and tribal communities in Suriname don’t have collective land rights and several groups have presented their case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.


 


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