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Javanese immigrants filled slavery abolition void in Surinam

Answer to labour shortage

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

PARAMARIBO, Surinam An Indonesian provincial governor recently visited the South American nation of Surinam to mark the settling in this former Dutch colony of Javanese immigrants over a century ago.

Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, governor of Yogyakarta province, laid wreaths with Suriname's President Ronald Venetiaan at a Paramaribo monument to Javanese immigrants. Members of the Javanese community from across the country celebrated the anniversary. The sultan also said he wanted to intensify cultural and educational relations with Surinam.

Indonesia and Surinam both are former Dutch colonies. Suriname, a country of about 55,000 square miles, has a population of 440,000 of which an estimated 70,000 are of Javanese origin. Indonesia, a political entity comprising of thousands of islands, has an estimated population of over 240 million.

After the abolition of slavery in 1863, Dutch plantation owners from 1890 on brought in Indonesian labourers to work on the sugar, coffee and cotton plantations. Most of the 33,000 labourers came from Yogyakarta province.

Suriname has a unique population mix, consisting of East Indians (35%), Afro-Surinamese (32%), Javanese (15%), Maroons (up-country descendents of former slaves 10%), and Chinese (2).