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Information source: De Ware Tijd
The Matawai Maroons in Suriname are uncertain of who will be their next paramount chief. Members of the family Asaf (part of the Hanbéi-clan), whose prerogative it is to nominate a candidate (who is then to be formally installed by the president of Suriname), are divided on the issue. One side of the family has proposed Lesley Valentijn as the new paramount chief. Others want Clyde Lafantie. The new paramount chief to the Matawai will succeed Oscar Lafantie (born 1943), who reigned from 1981 until his death in 2008.
When the government of Suriname received the nomination for Clyde Lafantie, last week, his cousin Lesley Valentijn had already participated in some of the preparatory rituals that are custom among the Matawai for new chiefs going into office.
Supporters of Valentijn argue that he has functioned as Matawai leader for some time already and that he enjoys good standing. They also state that his competitor, Lafantie, has alienated himself from his people, since he has long left Suriname. He lives in the Netherlands and holds a Dutch passport.
Those in favor of Lafantie emphasize his rights to the title and his willingness to re-migrate to Suriname and trade his Dutch passport for a Surinamese one.
The department for Regional Development of the Surinamese government is currently investigating the accuracy of procedures that have been taken by each of the two rivaling sides of the Asaf family. The department also makes effort to reconcile the two sides.
It is not the first time that Maroon family members in Suriname debate the succession of a chief’s office. This also happened among the Saramacca nation. Saramaccan paramount chief Belfon Aboikoni was installed by the government, although the family was still in dispute over the succession. Others had proposed Jacob ‘Oseni’ Amiena for the position.
For more information on the passing of paramount chief Oscar Lafantie, see the website of Maroon organization Teeifuka (in Dutch)