Haitian President Michel Martelly surrounded by crowds in Suriname
By Ivan Cairo
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- In a bid to strengthen bilateral relations with Suriname and offer diplomatic services to its nationals, Haiti will open a consulate in Suriname. Haitian President Michel Martelly informed his fellow countrymen this Saturday at a meeting in Jarikaba, Suriname. The Haitian leader arrived in Suriname on Friday for a two-day official visit.
“Before the end of April we will open a consulate in Paramaribo. Suriname will also establish a diplomatic post in Port-au-Prince,” he told his audience.
Haitians living in Suriname are having difficulties in obtaining official documents such as passports, birth certificates and other relevant papers, since they have to send their requests all the way to Curacao, French-Guiana or even Washington for processing.
“Sometimes it takes as long as four months before we receive or documents,” said Déjean Fleurentin, chairman of the Haiti-Suriname Cultural Association (ACHS).
Several thousand Haitian immigrants are living in Suriname and play a significant role in Suriname’s agriculture and banana sectors. Martelly informed his fellow countrymen that the Haitian and Suriname authorities are working closely together to resolve problems regarding Haitian nationals who have been living illegally in Suriname for many years. He warned however against abuse of the services both countries will offer to resolve the matter. Individuals should provide evidence that they have indeed been living in Suriname for many years and have a steady job.
Suriname’s minister of foreign affairs, Winston Lackin, said in an invited comment that the bilateral talks with the Haitian delegation, which started Friday afternoon, will focus on several issues. He noted that the Suriname government is seeking secure rice exports to Haiti. According to Lackin, Haiti needs about 400,000 tonnes of rice annually.
“We want to secure a portion of that market for our rice farmers,” said the minister.
The two nations are also discussing the establishment of direct flights between Paramaribo and Port-au-Prince. On Sunday the two countries were due to sign a bilateral agreement regarding cooperation in several fields and sectors.