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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06PARAMARIBO286 2006-05-16 19:13:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Paramaribo
Cable title:  

GROWING DIVIDE WITHIN PRESIDENT VENETIAAN'S

Tags:   PGOV PREL ECON NS 
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VZCZCXRO6735
RR RUEHGR
DE RUEHPO #0286/01 1361913
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161913Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8322
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHAO/AMCONSUL CURACAO 1029
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 1545
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 1427
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARAMARIBO 000286 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR WHA/CAR - LLUFTIG
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON NS
SUBJECT: GROWING DIVIDE WITHIN PRESIDENT VENETIAAN'S
COALITION - A LOOK AT PERTJAJA LUHUR

REF: PARAMARIBO 219

PARAMARIBO 00000286 001.2 OF 002




1. (U) Summary. President Ronald Venetiaan's eight-party
governing coalition is becoming increasingly fractured as
squabbles have escalated into testy standoffs in recent
weeks. The Javanese-based Pertjaja Luhur's (PL) temporary
refusal to attend National Assembly sessions (DNA) over a
personnel dispute with President Venetiaan exemplifies the
ongoing gamesmanship and posturing that have preoccupied New
Front Plus partners since coming together last summer; many
are doubting the lasting power of the coalition. This is
the second in a series of cables on the coalition woes
focusing on the ambitious and unpredictable PL. Perhaps
even more than the all-Maroon A-Combination (AC) featured in
the first cable, PL is pivotal in keeping the coalition's
majority intact. End Summary.



--------------------------



--------------------------


PERTJAJA LUHUR: A PIVOTAL PARTNER


--------------------------



--------------------------





2. (U) As a result of an aggressive election campaign
spearheaded by party chair and DNA speaker Paul Somohardjo,
PL increased its number of DNA seats in the May 2005
election and was key in allowing President Venetiaan to
maintain his thin majority. Of the 51 DNA seats available
last May, PL's DNA seat count increased from four to six,
while President Venetiaan's Creole-based National Party
Suriname (NPS) lost eight seats (16 to 8), and Vice-
President Ramdien Sardjoe's Hindustani-based United Reform
Party (VHP) lost three seats (10 to 7). With the NPS and
VHP suffering heavy electoral losses, President Venetian's
four party New Front coalition (NPS, VHP, PL, labor-oriented
SPA) lost its majority and was forced to caucus with the
three party AC coalition and the single seat DA91 party to
form a 29-seat governing coalition dubbed the New Front
Plus. In the new configuration, if PL were to pull its six
seats out of the coalition, the President and other
coalition partners would lose their majority.



3. (SBU) Considered by many to be a shrewd politician,
Somohardjo used his new political leverage after the
election to gain the DNA speaker position for himself, but
only after an initial push for the vice-presidency. Many
scoffed at his becoming speaker based on his unsavory past.
In 2002, while serving as Minister of Social Affairs and
Housing, Somohardjo allegedly accepted bribes to grant a
contract for the construction of 1,000 houses, but the claim
was dismissed in court. In 2003 Somohardjo was sent on
mandatory leave by President Venetiaan and subsequently
resigned after he was found guilty of sexually harassing a
teenage beauty pageant contestant.



4. (SBU) Somohardjo, age 63, does not seem constrained by
this past; he is working hard to bring all ethnic Javanese
voters under his party's umbrella, while at the same
attracting ethnic Chinese voters, including the growing
number of recently-arrived Chinese immigrants. According to
Embassy sources, he is also targeting members of Maroon
communities, contact eased through his party's control of
the Ministry responsible for land zoning, an important issue
for the Maroon constituency.



--------------------------


PERTJAJA LUHUR FLEXES ITS MUSCLES


--------------------------





5. (U) While the eight parties of the New Front Plus
continue to publicly maintain their unwieldy coalition is a
strong one, the defense of narrow party interests is causing
serious fissures. Each party views the ministries under
their control as enclaves for their own party's political
rule. This attitude led to a serious squabble between PL
and President Venetiaan over PL Minister of Education Edwin
Wolf's announcement on April 10 that he planned to replace
his Deputy Permanent Secretary of Technical Services Rudy
Wezenhagen, an NPS party member, with Ronny Tamsiran, a DNA
and executive board member of PL. Wolf had been acting on
the orders of Somohardjo and his PL board.



6. (U) Although it is normal practice for Ministers to
suspend or reshuffle top officials at their Ministries to
accommodate party members and confidants, the staff at the

PARAMARIBO 00000286 002.2 OF 002


Ministry of Education voiced strong objects to this
particular move to President Venetiaan. Speaking in a radio
interview the next day, President Venetiaan publicly
admonished Minister Wolf, saying only the President and
Council of Ministers have the authority to reshuffle senior
government officials and called him inexperienced. The
President also publicly corrected Somohardjo, who had
earlier said that the Minister of Education would be fully
authorized to do so.



7. (U) Upset by the remarks, Somohardjo stated in a party
press release on April 13 that the party was "very offended"
by the president's statements and that, until further
notice, PL Ministers and DNA members would not attend
meetings of the National Assembly and the Council of
Ministers. This prevented the DNA from convening since the
absence of PL's six seats prevented the New Front Plus from
forming a parliamentary quorum, as members of opposition
parties also chose not attend sessions in order to deny the
coalition a quorum.



8. (U) The boycott only lasted until April 19, however, when
closed-door talks held by New Front Plus leaders led to PL
ending their protest and agreeing to keep Wezenhagen in his
position. George Hering, spokesman for PL and personal
advisor of Somohardjo, said the media had blown statements
made by President Venetiaan out of proportion, and it was
clear now that Venetiaan had not intended to offend the
party or its officials.



9. (U) A permanent break in the coalition was once again
avoided by coalition partners finding common ground and
communicating with each other after the fact, but skeptics
wonder how long they can continue this constant wrangling
and petty squabbling. During the days following heavy
flooding in the interior that began on May 6-7, Somohardjo
was quick to carp about flood relief delays, a position
clearly unwelcomed by his coalition partners organizing the
disaster response. The trend looks likely to continue with
upcoming discussions for nominations of Ambassadors and
supervisory boards at various public sector companies likely
to cause a stir; Somohardjo has already indicated that he
will settle for nothing less than six PL ambassadorships.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





10. (SBU) Somohardjo's dramatic form of protest was aimed at
reminding his partners of his party's importance to the
coalition's survival. While cooperation between the A-
Combination and the New Front has been less than stellar
(see reftel), some observers close to the Embassy single out
the opportunist and ambitious Somohardjo as the true threat
to the coalition's stability. A long-time Somohardjo
confidant told POLOFF that Somohardjo is satisfied for the
moment with his position, but in the future it is highly
possible that he would seek new partners if this were to be
to his advantage. It was unlikely that Somohardjo was truly
mollified when his recent differences with Venetiaan were
settled, but that he was biding is time for a more decisive
opportunity to strike. At speeches made at a May 6 birthday
celebration for Somohardjo, all coalition partners
reaffirmed their commitment to a tight-knit coalition,
except Somohardjo, who passionately bragged of PL's
increasing popularity and how his party would eventually win
just as many seats as the NPS and VHP. He mentioned the
coalition only as an afterthought.

LEONARD