President Bouterse has moved to strengthen his Mega-Combination coalition through a strategic cabinet reshuffling. On Thursday, May 3rd, President Bouterse announced the ministries that would have been affected by his reshuffle. These were: the Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs, The Ministry of Regional Development, the Ministry of Justice and Police, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Physical Planning, Land and Forest Management. The President’s move comes from in- depth evaluation earlier this year and months following public speculation of the need for changes on account of performance.
One observer has stated, “it is a demonstration of the Bouterse-Ameerali’s commitment to transparency and good governance in the interest of the nation as a whole.” Following high-level consultation with the other leaders of the Mega-Combination coalition, the President announced the appointments to ensure a better- and smoother-running government machine. New appointments included Mrs. Shirley Sitaldien, Minister of Education and Community Development; Mrs. Abigail. Lie A Kwie new Under-Minister in the Ministry of Public Works and Mr. Mahinder Gopi, the Under-Minister in the Ministry of Regional Developmenti.
This is the first time that a female has been appointed as Minister of Education and Community Development in the Republic of Suriname. Mrs. Sitaldien received the nod from the President and the coalition partners.
The Ministry of Public Health is now under the mantle of Drs. Blokland, also a medical practitioner, like his predecessor. Whereas the latter was trained in Cuba, Drs. Blokland did his studies at the Medical University in Suriname.
Of interest is the detail that the Mega-Combinatie leaders chose to appoint a disciplined straight-talking ex-law enforcement officer Mr. Edward Belfor as its Minister of Justice & Police.
These recent moves meant that one party was excluded from holding ministerial positions: the BEP. The political groups, the BEP and Nieuw Suriname, were weighed and found wanting when it came down to standing firm on principled collective ground. Apart from internal party issues on leadership, the BEP has reduced its representatives in the National Assembly from four to two seats. There has been internal dissatisfaction within that party.
President Bouterse also told the New Suriname Party that he will not be depending on the votes from their two parliamentary representatives. There are also strong fissure lines within the leadership of the New Suriname Party which has been content with critical support for the government. This year the party voted against the government's current budget and it abstained from voting on the Amnesty question.
According to senior party sources these measures are part of Bouterse's new plans to have a more focused, efficient and tightly organized government. In a recent rally President Bouterse emphasized that Suriname needs to work together to maintain its present economic growth and stability. There was a public show of support for the governing mega-combination coalition which also includes Ronnie Brunswick of the A-Combination Party and Paul Somohardjo of the Pertjalah Luhur.
Supporters of the government feel that not much has been lost by the departure of the BEP and the absence of full support from the New Suriname Party. They noted that the BEP faction abstained from voting in favor of the Amnesty Act.
Supporters of President Bouterse feel that he has moved to consolidate his government in the wake of the controversy over the passing of the updated Amnesty Act. The court investigating the 1982 executions of fifteen people has decided to adjourn its deliberations. Judge Cynthia Valstein-Montnor explained that "we adjourn until a new constitutional court is established which will determine whether the law was in accordance with the Surinamese constitution." This constitutional court has yet to be established by the government.
For years, the previous government had failed to appoint the constitutional court. It is now up to the current Bouterse-Ameerali Mega-Combinatie government to make right what was left conveniently unattended by those previously in power.