In 1975 Suriname became a republic after more than three hundred years. It has been linked to the Netherlands from 1667 to 1954 as a colony and from 1954 as a territory with a system of limited self-government under the Act of October 28, 1954, commonly known as the Statute (of the Kingdom of the Netherlands). As an independent country Suriname developed its own ties, first with the former mother country, then with the United States, the countries in the region and with the countries of origin of its inhabitants. Shortly before independence the Minister of Education determined that Dutch — although insufficiently mastered by a large part of the population — for the time being would remain the official language, but French, German and Portuguese would disappear from the curriculum, while Spanish would be made optional. That was the first language political act of the Government.
Van Dale’s dictionary defines language policy as the politics waged to protect or suppress a language, especially in a state with more than one language. This definition seems a good starting point to focus on the language policy of Suriname, a multilingual country.
Language policy can be expressed in clearly identifiable political acts, as happened in 2011 in Suriname, when the Ministry of Education appointed an advisory committee for the establishment of a Language Board and for the drafting of a Language Law. This committee held hearings and gave an opinion on this basis. But the absence of clear language political actions one would expect on the basis of historical, social, economic and political considerations, could be considered as language policy as well, as in this article will become clear.
In this contribution the language policy of Suriname will be examined on the basis of the aforementioned aspects.