Diasporic Stranger in Suriname | Welcoming the Lost Son

Published: Nov 9, 2022

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Diasporic Stranger in Suriname | Welcoming the Lost Son

As a diasporic Surinamese, it’s not that you’re not welcome in Suriname. You are, but only when you comply with “certain expectations” and submit to some “naturally assumed rules,” both of which have been proven to me to be rather hard to meet. I will talk about that later in this post, but first the following.

Since Suriname’s independence in 1975, almost all succeeding governments have — more or less — urged the Surinamese diaspora to come back to help develop the country. Roughly quoted it’s stated in the following words: “The diaspora plays an important role in Suriname’s ambitions for further economic development. You’re welcome! Please come back!”

Unfortunately, the official measures taken to actually make it easy for the Surinamese diaspora to return were — in my opinion — always a bit halfheartedly. Up to today, it’s been quite a drag to administratively resettle in Suriname; it just involves a lot of paperwork. However, over the years, there has been a certain improvement in the form of the law for Persons of Surinamese Descent (Personen van Surinaamse Afkomst aka PSA) but frankly — it’s not enough. For instance, the question of dual citizenship is still not satisfactorily resolved.

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There’s basically a lot of empty talk going on, continually, already decades, while there’s not even an active or structural diaspora engagement policy in place. It all remains just talk, and those who would want to return are simply left to their own devices. If you would go back, well, you will need to figure everything out for yourself.

Apart from the administrative difficulties, the Surinamese who have been abroad for a longer time, let’s say more than a decade or even for decades, are expected to “behave properly” on return. In a way, the diasporic community is seen as a kind of “traitor,” one that left the country when things were hard, and moreover, profited from living in wealthy countries such as Holland, Belgium, or the USA.

It means that you are not “allowed” to criticize Suriname, its politics, its people, or actions. Basically, you are supposed to keep your mouth firmly shut, while submitting to the Surinamese way of life. I think a lot goes wrong here, because it’s notably the diaspora who should be allowed to constructively criticize the way things go and work in Suriname in order to improve things. Because let’s be honest: on a vast number of issues Suriname needs a lot more efficiency, efficacy, integrity, and proficiency, and I think the diaspora — with their education, experience, and lessons learned abroad — can be extremely helpful in this respect.

Regrettably, the actual practice in Suriname doesn’t work like that. Yes, you are “welcome,” but only if you are humble, don’t criticize or give your opinion, fully accept the way things go in the country, and don’t try to change anything. But this kind of attitude and expectations of the resident Surinamese population is diametrically opposed to the implicit aims stated in “… the diaspora plays an important role in Suriname’s ambitions for further economic development.” Let’s be clear about this: the latter can never come true if the diaspora isn’t allowed or encouraged to strongly participate in “change.”

It’s exactly the above that has impeded me to remigrate to Suriname and try to make a life and living there. The times I revisited Suriname made it very clear to me that I would have a very hard time adapting. To tell the truth, I understood for myself that I wouldn’t be able to acclimatize to a culture of listlessness and lassitude, reluctance to change, unwillingness to be criticized, and a refusal to engage in giving your utmost best “to do things right.”

Well, to make a long story short: gradually I started to realize that Suriname was not longer for me, and I not for Suriname. That hurt, but what else than to accept? In the end it simply seems that things are what they are, and that we need to accept the inevitable; of course, things can always change, because change is the principal rule of life, but it seems very unlikely that it will be the case in my lifetime.


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