The Netherlands was contemplating a US-supported invasion of its former colony Suriname in 1986, government ministers have confirmed, the Volkskrant reports on Tuesday.
The admission comes a year after the Socialist Party asked the government for official clarification after the Volkskrant published a reconstruction of events in which former government officials talk about the plans which included the arrest of the then army leader Desi Bouterse.
Bouterse, who is now the country’s president, grabbed power in Suriname in the so-called ‘sergeants’ coup’ of 1980. Two years later, he had 15 of his political opponents killed in the infamous December killings, effectively establishing a dictatorship with a puppet government.
At the time of the planned invasion, former Bouterse bodyguard Ronni Brunswijk was waging a bloody guerrilla war against Bouterse which threatened to engulf the country.
The Netherlands and the United States wanted their citizens evacuated and law and order to be restored. According to the Volkskrant’s account of the events, the Netherlands was asked by Suriname prime minister Pretaap Radhakishun and two other members of the government to remove Bouterse.
After a number of fraught weeks in which diplomatic relations with Suriname were strained to breaking point, prime minister Ruud Lubbers decided to call off the plans.
‘The Netherlands had become too prominent a player and it would have been difficult to legitimise a military intervention on the basis of the request from the Suriname government’, the paper writes.
Because the plans were never subject to ‘a political decision’ the ministers refuse to reveal any documents related to them. They admit that in 2007, when former foreign minister Maxime Verhagen was also asked about the plans, the minister hadn’t told the whole story because he was not in possession of all the facts.
‘It would have been better if a more investigative approach had been adopted at that time’, current foreign minister Uri Rosenthal and Defence minister Hans Hillen said.
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