Suriname’s Foreign Minister Winston Lackin (L) with his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa in Jakarta
By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- During the visit of Suriname’s foreign minister, Winston Lackin, to Indonesia, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday that commits the former Dutch colonies to boost people-to-people relations and increase trade.
"In the future we will focus more on cooperation in agriculture, energy and people to people relations," Indonesia's Antara news agency quoted Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa as saying.
Suriname wants to expand cooperation with Indonesia in the agriculture sector to develop its domestic agricultural-based industry.
Suriname expects this cooperation will enable it to increase the production of agricultural goods and maintain food security for the people.
"We are convinced that in the future there will be more economic cooperation between Suriname and Indonesia," Suriname's foreign affairs minister said.
Apart from cooperation in agriculture, Suriname and Indonesia are also planning to cooperate in fishery sector.
Suriname and Indonesia have historical and cultural bonds since the migration of 70,000 Indonesians to Suriname in the 1890s. Today, many ministers in government of Suriname are of Indonesian background. As well, Suriname’s ambassador to Indonesia, Amina Pardi, is of Indonesian decent.
"A large part of population of Suriname is of Indonesian descent. We have been blessed by the enrichment of your culture, history, and religion. With this background, I’m sure there is a strong basis to develop more cooperation," Lackin said.
Indonesia considers Suriname as a strategic partner, as it is located in the centre of Latin America and is expected to function as hub for marketing of Indonesian products to countries in the region, but this has been slow to take off.
The last time a Surinamese foreign minister visited Indonesia was in 1993. An official visit of Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse to Indonesia is in the making. The Surinamese head of state is keen to expand commercial ties with Jakarta and other emerging economies such as Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, India and regional nations such as Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.
Indonesia exports several products to Suriname, namely, textile, furniture, clothes, household equipment, plastic equipment, shoes, cooking ingredients and musical instruments.
Trade value between Indonesia and Suriname from the period of 2007 to 2012 has increased by 187 percent. Trade value in 2012 was recorded at US$8.9 million, an increase of 12.56 percent from the previous year of US$7.9 million.