A story in the paper of Nov. 6 on a recent election in Surinam paraphrased the country's ambassador in Washington as praising the results of the contest. The ambassador, Roel F. Karamat, was commenting on the election process as a whole and not on the outcome.
The results of Surinam's first election since independence two years ago show that the people of the South American country have chosen stability and moderate policies over appeals to radicalism and racial demagoguery.
The Oct. 31 general election returned incumbent Premier Henck Arron's progressive coalition with the same 22 to 17 edge in Parliament over the opposition led by veteran politician Jaggernath Lachmon.
Surinam, a former Dutch colony on the northeastern coast of Latin America, about the size of Georgia has only about 400,000 inhabitants. But it is the world's fourth largest exporter of bauxite, and sells the U.S. about a quarter of its supply of the aluminum ore.
Because of its strategic significance as a major bouxite producer, Caribbean and Latin American experts here were encouraged by the smooth election.
Aaron, 41, won the contest despite the defection from his coalition of a key leftist party headed by Economic Minister Eddy Bruma. The premier had consistently rejected Bruma's attempts to push the fledgling republic toward nationalization of the crucial bauxite industry and other radical policies.
Bruma's party was soundly repudiated and won no seats, even though he made a dramatic last-minute television appearance to accuse Aaron of keeping $2.5 million in the Southeast First National Bank of Miami.
The bank's president issued a statement that cleared Arron, and sources said the document used to back the allegation appeared to be a "clumsy forgery."
The election also showed a clear trend away from Surinam's old politics, which have traditionally been marked by ethnic overtones. The Creoles, Surinam's urban blacks who make up more than 30 per cent of the population, were usually pitted against the East Indians, who comprise 35 per cent, Indonesians, who constitute 15 per cent of the population, hold the political balance.
In this election Arron's group gained some support from the East Indians, more than making up for Bruma's defection.
Arron's press secretary George Hering said in a telephone interview that he was "convinced that in the (rural) district of Nickerie, the election followed racial lines" and that many East Indians there voted for the opposition. However, he said, "this was the exception ratherthan the rule."
Voter turnout was moderate, just under 70 per cent, and the election was free of the type of turmoil common to elections in other countries of the region.
A key factor in the election was the switch of an East Indian member of Parliament, George Hindorie, from the opposition to the ruling coalition - a move which should help accelerate the trend away from racial fragmentation.
Hindorie, an agricultural engineer, split from Lachmon's group and formed a new party, taking a significant chunk of East Indian votes with him.
Arrons new cabinet will face a number of problems. Unemployment hovers around 25 per cent, Surinam has an acute housing shortage, and the country remains a net importer of food.
But because of the bauxite industry, which accounts for 90 per cent of the nation's export income, Surinam has maintained a positive balance of trade for the past five years.
The country has launched a number of projects - highways, hydroelectric plants, railways, agriculture and forestry - in its undeveloped west. By 1985, an estimated $980 million will have been invested in that part of the country, and Surinam's planners hope to create more than 19,000 jobs and add $375 million to the country's gross national product.
"We have to do something to change the one-sided characteer of our economy, which has primarily been based on the bauxite industry," Arron said in an interview in Washington recently.
Arron's policy has been to encourage as much outside investment as possible, preferably though joint ventures with Americans, Dutch, West Germans and Japanese providing managerial know-how.
Surinam's ambassador here, Roel F. Karamat, said he believes the recent election results show a process of "national building" is taking place, and that Surinam's people are gaining self-confidence.
Investors are likely to be heartened by the fact that no violence occured during the election campaign. Surinam has never experienced the type of disruption that broke out in its neighbor, Guyana, in its independence year, 1966.
"We have proved that we alone can be democratic," Karamat said, "We don't need any outside help to be a functioning republic."