Suriname combats violence and other criminal activities with different strategies at the operational and tactical level. Broadening security cooperation between the three Guianas and cooperation with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are part of the strategies Colonel Werner Guiseppe Kioe A Sen, commander of the Suriname Armed Forces (SAF), emphasizes to keep criminals at bay.
Col. Kioe A Sen spoke with Diálogo about security challenges and international cooperation, among other topics.
Diálogo: Domestic violence has increased in Suriname. How are the Suriname Armed Forces (SAF) helping the government to reduce this violence?
Colonel Werner Guiseppe Kioe A Sen, commander of the Suriname Armed Forces: Based on our Constitution, we have a supporting role if it comes to domestic violence or domestic security. So when there is a request from the government to support the police force or any other civilian authority, the Armed Forces are deployed.
Diálogo: The cocaine air bridge from Venezuela moving through Guyana and Suriname is one of the most active drug routes in the world. How are SAF contributing to counter this security threat?
Col. Kioe A Sen: We are working with limited resources and we are supporting the government through our personnel, knowledge, and available assets. Recently, we have destroyed lots of illegal airstrips, and that’s what we do together with other agencies such as the Suriname Directorate of National Security and the intelligence units as well as with the international cooperation.
Diálogo: The SAF are going through shaping measures to reduce personnel cost. Why is this happening and how can this impact the mission?
Col. Kioe A Sen: We are required to reduce our personnel cost because we have a limited budget and we must guarantee the security and defense of our country, so we need to be efficient and effective altogether. In order to do that, we must takes measures and that is why we are required to reduce. We are not reducing the size, but for now, we are not taking new personnel. About 89.6 percent of our budget goes to personnel costs and with only 10.4 percent, you can’t manage the defense enough. The bottom line is that we are trying to reduce the costs in order to have more resources available for defense and security.
Diálogo: What cooperation efforts do the SAF have with CARICOM nations to neutralize narcotrafficking and curb organized and criminal activities?
Col. Kioe A Sen: We cooperate at the CARICOM level with the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS, that’s a valuable asset based on information and intelligence, where we share it. We also have good cooperation with Suriname and French Guiana, and since 2021, we have been increasing information sharing. This is why we were more successful in some cases. We have the Directorate of National Security that works with IMPACS and with other agencies in the region.
Diálogo: What are the results of the trilateral agreement between Suriname, French Guiana, and Guyana to strengthen and broaden security cooperation between the three Guianas?
Col. Kioe A Sen: It was necessary for us to come together at the strategic level to align our strategic thinking. We are seeing that we have similar threats and not all three nations have the same capabilities. We share information, capabilities, and it’s thanks to this effort that we combat, for example, organized crime. I can say right now that in our border with French Guiana due to efforts, we have combated an illegal immigrant group that was active not only in Suriname, but also in French Guiana, and the armed forces identified these criminals. We shared the information and thanks to this effort they were taken into custody.
Diálogo: How do the SAF contribute to national efforts to prevent cyber security threats?
Col. Kioe A Sen: On the highest level, it’s coordinated by the Directorate of National Security. We have just started as we are not that developed as other nations, but there are serious measures taken. We started with a strategic plan for cyber security and through frequent engagements with local departments, we try to create more awareness. Between our organization, we started training cyber analysts and the first class that graduated is helping us to maintain a certain awareness within the cyber domain.
Diálogo: How does the civil-military operation “Gran Mati” (Big Friend in Surinamese), help the local population?
Col. Kioe A Sen: It helps them a lot. We bring health care, repair, and renovate schools and the local population looks forward to all these operations that we do. For example, last year we brought health service and dental care and also thanks to U.S. Southern Command, we gave new eyeglasses to more than 200 locals, and it was a very welcomed gesture because in the economic crisis that Suriname endures right now, it is not possible to have the highest quality of health care.
Diálogo: The partnership with the South Dakota National Guard, as part of the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program has been focusing on subject matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) with SAF. What is the importance of these SMEEs?
Col. Kioe A Sen: The state partnership with South Dakota is a valuable partnership. We share experience, knowledge, and focus on SMEEs. It isn’t always necessary to invest millions of dollars through engagements. The SMEEs are also a great opportunity for our military to engage with foreign military.