Interview with Suriname Chief of Defense, Col. Hedwig Gilaard

Interview with Suriname Chief of Defense, Col. Hedwig Gilaard

By Dialogo
April 20, 2011

Suriname was represented at the Caribbean Nations Security Conference,
co-hosted by the United States Southern Command and Trinidad and Tobago in February
2011, by their newly appointed Chief of Defense, Col. Hedwig Gilaard.
Diálogo spoke with Col. Gilaard about the security challenges
facing his country and the need for increased regional cooperation to tackle
trans-national threats such as the spread of illicit trafficking throughout the

Diálogo: What are the main security concerns for Suriname at
this time?

Col. Hedwig Gilaard: We have to do a lot to have a feeling of
security, because we have open borders and it’s very difficult to track illegal
activities, very difficult. Eighty percent of my country is forest, so the east and
the western borders are open. There are many rivers, so everybody can come in
easily. We don’t have a good routing system that can track aircraft. So I think we
can do more about safety in our country.

Diálogo: What would be the role of the Armed Forces in ensuring
safety and more precisely in combating illicit trafficking in Suriname?

Col. Hedwig Gilaard: We have a great challenge because the Armed
Forces are not that big. We have approximately two thousand men, so the country is
too big for the Armed Forces alone to handle. Maybe with help from other nations, we
can do a better job.

Diálogo: Where do you envision this help coming

Col. Hedwig Gilaard: Maybe from the big brothers, like Brazil,
our southern neighbor, and the United States.

Diálogo: Do you also have a problem in Suriname with criminal
organizations and the emergence of gangs?

Col. Hedwig Gilaard: Yes. Just like in every country, and even
more so in a small county, we have that problem.

Diálogo: How has illicit trafficking affected your country

Col. Hedwig Gilaard: We are a transit country along the drug
route, but a part of the drugs stay in the country. So in every neighborhood we now
have youngsters who are on drugs. A part of our youth are affected by

Diálogo: You mentioned working with other countries. What would
be some of the benefits for Suriname in working with the United States and other

Col. Hedwig Gilaard: We are working with Southcom [United States
Southern Command]. Some years ago we captured illegal aircraft but I think for two
years now we haven’t captured illegal aircraft, so maybe there are less drugs coming
into the country.

Diálogo: Do you think additional monitoring or working with
organizations such as JIATF-S (Joint Inter-Agency Task Force-South) and with
regional partners, such as the RSS (Regional Security System) in the Caribbean and
CARICOM, would also bring a direct benefit to Suriname?

Col. Hedwig Gilaard: I think so, yes. I don’t have numbers to
show you, but I think that maybe we don’t have as many drugs coming into Suriname. I
know that two years ago we found a lot of small aircraft that we captured in our
country. But I don’t know the route now through our country.

Diálogo: Do you feel that initiatives like the Caribbean Basin
Security Initiative will be helpful to combat illicit trafficking? What role could
Suriname play within that initiative?

Col. Hedwig Gilaard: Yes. It’s a difficult task. We can’t do it
alone. We are too small to do it alone and we have a lack of intelligence, a lack of
means. I think that with training we can resolve a lot of problems. Our budget is
not that big, so with the help of others, I think we can achieve those

Diálogo: What would Suriname contribute to the initiative, for
example, specialized training or information sharing that you could assist with?

Col. Hedwig Gilaard: We know our country. I think we have enough
experience. Maybe we can deliver results with our experience.

Diálogo: Is there anything else you would like to

Col. Hedwig Gilaard: Yes, I hope that we can get support from,
like I mentioned before, the big brothers, like the United States and Brazil, to
help us to do something to bring down to normal proportions illicit trafficking.