Good evening, Goeden avond, Vice President Ameerali, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ministers and Permanent Secretaries of the Republic of Suriname; District Commissioners and Members of the National Assembly; Fellow Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic and Honorary Consular Corps; Colleagues from the community of Inter-Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations in Suriname; Members of the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement community of Suriname; Members of the Suriname-America Alumni Association;
Distinguished guests, members of the media, friends, and colleagues:
Lourdes and I are extremely pleased to welcome you to our home to celebrate the 239th anniversary of American Independence.
Lourdes en ik zijn bijzonder vereerd om u allen welkom te heten in ons huis om met ons de twee-honderd-negen-en-dertigste jaardag van Amerikaanse onafhankelijkheid te vieren.
As the holy month of Ramadan continues, I would like to wish Ramadan Mubarak to all of our Muslim guests.
Sinds het ook de heilige maand Ramadan is, wens ik al onze Moslim gasten een Ramadan Moebarak.
I would like to extend my gratitude to the many sponsors that are making this night possible. Creating bonds with local Surinamese businesses, as well as Surinamese businesses representing American brands, is crucial as we deepen our relationship with Suriname. Without you, this night would not be the same. Thank you very much for your generosity.
Ik wil mijn dank uiten aan de vele sponsoren die deze avond mogelijk maken. Het aangaan van samenwerkingen met locale Surinaamse bedrijven, alsook met Surinaamse bedrijven die Amerikaanse merken vertegenwoordigen, is crucial sinds wij onze relatie met Suriname verdiepen. Zonder jullie, zou deze avond niet hetzelfde zijn. Hartelijk dank voor uw vrijgevigheid.
I’d also like to thank our Dixieland Band. The musicians are all Surinamers, but they play Jazz like they were brought up in the American South. This just goes to show that music is a universal language. Please applaud their artistry.
Ik wil ook danken onze Dixieland Band. De artiesten zijn allemaal Surinamers, maar zij spelen Jazz alsof zij geboren zijn in het Zuiden van Amerika! Dit is alweer een bewijs dat muziek een universeel tal is. Graag een applaus voor hun kunst talent.
Tonight we celebrate the ratification of a document with immeasurable importance. On this day 239 years ago, 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the separation of the American colonies from the British throne. They formed a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” are engrained in the minds of the American people.
It is because of this legacy of guaranteed freedoms and a resilient democracy
that so many people continue to flock to the United States. Throughout the course of history, various nationalities, cultures, and belief systems arrived. We began to refer to ourselves as a melting pot – a place where different cultures came together and became one unified United States of America.
However, in some ways the United States is more like a salad bowl than a melting pot. It is a nation composed of distinctly diverse cultures. These various cultures contribute to the continued resilience and advancement of the United States of America. In Suriname, as in the United States, the presence of contrasting and yet complementary cultural groups is evident. Here in Paramaribo,
architecture, restaurants, shops, markets, and most importantly the people themselves are evidence that respect for diversity helps build a strong nation.
Over the past three years I had the distinct pleasure to serve as the U.S. ambassador to your wonderful country, Suriname. As I reflect on my time here,
our partnership with Suriname on public health, youth development, and citizen security stand out as particularly positive achievements.
Together, we continue to see steady progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS
in Suriname. The United States continues to spend several billion dollars per year on this global struggle, working with health partners around the world. Since 2010, our embassy spent $153,000 on small grants to directly aid Suriname in increasing HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and eliminating stigmas associated with the disease. With the help of our Small Grants Program, Surinamers can both
seek treatment for HIV/AIDS, and – very importantly – stay in treatment.
The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, or CBSI, is a partnership between
various Caribbean nations, including Suriname, and the United States to address regional security concerns. By joining forces with the Korps Politie Suriname Police Academy and installing a video conferencing system, Suriname’s police force now has the ability to collaborate with CARICOM-member police forces,
thus improving training and increasing civil security. The Automated Fingerprint Identification System continues to enhance the ability of the KPS to solve crimes
and the Court of Justice to ensure convictions based on hard evidence.
Our cooperation extended to Suriname’s ports, where the U.S. Coast Guard
assists the Maritime Authority Suriname to increase its capacity to monitor and control operations. Suriname Prison Force officers traveled to the United States
to join their Caribbean counterparts in the Mock Prison Riot program for the second year in a row. In June they attended a Caribbean Correctional Conference
to discuss tools and techniques that support the Ministry of Justice and Police’s National Rehabilitation Plan for Suriname.
In addition to focus on security initiatives, we worked together on emergency preparedness. General John Kelly, Commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), concluded a two-day visit to Suriname in November 2014. Gen. Kelly visited several Surinamese military installations and
donated 1,000 personal protective suits for protection against infectious disease
to the National Coordination Center for Disaster Response (NCCR).
CBSI also allowed the United States to partner with Suriname on youth development. I am especially pleased with the continued success of programs funded by the United States through the U.S. Agency for International Development such as A Ganar and Kari Yu.
A Ganar utilized a teamwork centered approach to teach life skills and vocational training in order to combat youth unemployment. Since A Ganar launched in 2012, 497 youth graduated with improved skills to advance their futures. Kari Yu’s focus on youth development and juvenile justice helps at-risk youth gain access to employment and the life skills necessary to become productive citizens. Via the Kari Yu program, 559 youth completed workforce development training, 155 received long-term employment and 226 accessed internship opportunities. In fact, our embassy just hired one of these fine young Surinamers as a full time employee.
Progress in these areas makes me optimistic about the future. There are many more areas for improved cooperation between our nations. In a country dominated by vast rain forests, rivers, and coastal mangroves, climate change and responsible resource management are topics of mutual interest and concern.
We are working with local partners such as Anton de Kom University and
Conservation International Suriname to explore innovative approaches to reestablishing mangroves to protect the seacoast from rising waters. Our embassy is also assisting the Peperpot Nature Park in stimulating research and education
by helping with the inventory and banding of forest birds, in cooperation with the World Wildlife Foundation.
We hope Suriname will become a party to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Today uncontrolled gold mining involves the release of tons of poisonous mercury into the air, creeks and rivers. This environmental pollution poses a great danger to anyone living in Suriname, but particularly to the peoples of the interior who depend on the creeks and rivers for food and water.
Last month, we hosted a screening of the ATV documentary, “Mercury Contamination: Suriname’s Silent Public Health Menace,” produced in cooperation with the Suriname Conservation Foundation and the U.S. Department of State. During the discussion that followed, I was impressed by the ideas and solutions offered by concerned citizens who recognize the real risks mercury poses to the health of Surinamers and the environment. Dialogue among all parties is critical to solving an issue.
The recent events regarding the soccer world and the FIFA governing body
remind us that corruption continues to be a problem worldwide in both the private and public sectors. Corruption affects everyone. In many countries, it is the biggest obstacle to economic and social development. It weakens governments
by undermining democracy and human rights. Corruption diverts funds from public services such as health care, education and sanitation. It discourages foreign investment, which leads to fewer jobs. It gives the advantage to unscrupulous companies at the expense of responsible firms which pay decent salaries and benefits.
Those who are courageous enough to stand against corruption can combat it and make the world a better place. I call on government leaders and others in power to behave responsibly for the greater good of their communities.
Though my wife Lourdes and I greatly enjoy our time in Suriname,
we regret that we likely will not see the completion of the new U.S. Embassy complex which is rising quickly on the corner of Kleine- and Kristalstraats. While I had the honor of christening the building with a bottle of Parbo at the topping out ceremony in April, my successor will get the satisfaction of walking through the door of our fully-finished, state-of-the art chancery.
Next 4th of July, we hope to not only celebrate the 240th year of America’s independence, but the opening of our new embassy compound. This new facility
will provide a modern, safe, secure, and environmentally-friendly place for embassy personnel and visitors. Since construction began in March 2014, the construction contractor, B.L. Harbert International, LLC, of Birmingham, Alabama, hired more than 1,000 workers, almost all of whom are Surinamers.
The design includes several “green” features, including a green roof, seeded with plants to reduce the amount of heat radiating from the building back into the atmosphere. Once complete, the Embassy will showcase and celebrate the works
of Surinamese and American artists alike demonstrating that art cannot be bound
by the constraints of language or culture but is something felt by all.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our U.S. Embassy employees and diplomats, as well as all American citizens living in Suriname, for their various contributions to relations between our two countries and to the development
of the economy of Suriname. You serve as a strategic piece in the diplomacy process and the work you do is essential.
I also thank the people and the government of Suriname for your warm hospitality. I am grateful to be serving in a country with such a welcoming,
friendly local population. You helped to make these past three years a wonderful experience for me and for my family. It is an honor to celebrate our nation’s independence with you.
And I’m happy so many of you could be here tonight. The World Cup gave us stiff competition last year. I’m thankful that this year Team America plays on Sunday in the Women’s World Cup final. I hope you will stay and watch our fireworks display.
En ik ben blij dat velen van u vanavond hier zijn. Het WK gaf ons enorme concurrentie vorig jaar. Ik ben dankbaar dat dit jaar Team America op zondag in de vrouwen WK finale speelt. Ik hoop dat u zult blijven en van ons vuurwerk zult genieten.
Please join me in raising your glasses and toasting both the United States and Suriname. Together, may we continue to celebrate both diversity and freedom.
Gelieve samen met mij uw glas te heffen en een toast uit te brengen op zowel de Verenigde Staten als Suriname. Mogen wij samen zowel diversiteit en vrijheid blijven vieren.