PARAMARIBO--Suriname’s National Reparations Committee NRCS has filed a request with President Desi Bouterse that the two highest mountains in the country – the Wilhelmina and Juliana Mountains – be given back to the indigenous people. “It would be prudent to do this now, in light of the 40th Independence Day,” NRCS chairman Armand Zunder explained.
“Independence is more than economic and financial sovereignty. People’s minds have to be freed as well and you achieve that by making people more aware of their own history,” he added.
Last year, when Suriname marked the 152nd anniversary of the abolition of slavery, NRCS convinced Government to place Suriname’s coat of arms on the historic Presidential Palace; it replaced an image that referred to the days of the West Indian Company that held a trade monopoly in the West Indies, a company that became instrumental in the Dutch colonisation of the Americas.
Zunder said there are too many places on Suriname’s map that still hold colonial names. “The Dutch colonialism is a horrible history of atrocities and mental slavery. A large part of the community does not know that this is what many of our problems today are rooted in,” said the NRCS chairman.
The Wilhelmina Mountains (with the Hendrik and Juliana peaks) is a mountain range in district Sipaliwini in central Suriname. It extends about 113km (70mi) from west to east. It is named after Queen Wilhelmina. The Juliana Peak, 1,280 metres high is the country’s highest peak.
The Wilhelmina Mountain was named after the then Dutch queen during expeditions in 1901 and 1902. It is not clear when the Juliana Peak got its name; then Governor Jan Klaasensz made the request in 1952 when reports reached him that the highest mountain was still simply being referred to as “Top 1280.”
NRCS Chairman Zunder hinted that the Indigenous People of the area still have their own names for the ridges.