Surinamese coup d’état of 1990

Ramsewak Shankar

The Surinamese coup d’état that transpired in 1990, also referred to as the Telephone Coup, was an army coup in Suriname on 24 December 1990 CE. The infamous coup was taken out by the commander-in-chief of the Suriname National Army (SNL), Police Chief Ivan Graanoogst. As a result, President Ramsewak Shankar was removed from power, and the government and parliament were disbanded.


On 25 February 1980 CE, a military coup d’état happened in Suriname that Senior Sergeant Dési Bouterse organized. Bouterse began to rule Suriname like an unholy dictator, heading the National Military Council. He ended the National Assembly, rejected the constitution, forced a state of emergency in the nation, and formed a special tribunal that weighed the cases of members of the former government.

In 1987 CE, Bouterse chose to restore the constitution and hold an election if he stayed the SNL head. However, in the November 1987 CE general election, his National Democratic Party won only 3 of 51 seats in the National Assembly, and the others received 40. The presidential election, held on 25 January 1988 CE, was decisively won by Ramsewak Shankar, who the SNL disliked, and Henck Arron, who was previously overthrown during the 1980 CE coup, was appointed prime minister. The tension between the SNL and the government was growing.

Bouterse was removed as commander-in-chief and mentioned that he could not perform the role of a clown who “does not have pride and dignity.” Graanoogst temporarily succeeded him


On 24 December 1990 CE, midnight Suriname Time (UTC−03:00), Graanoogst informed President Shankar by telephone that he was being removed and that he and his government “had better stay home.” On 27 December, Graanoogst dissolved the government, dismissed the National Assembly, and Johan Kraag was chosen as president on 29 December. On 31 December of 1990, Bouterse was reappointed as acting commander-in-chief of the SNL.

World reactions

The Netherlands responded negatively to the coup and ended allotting funds for the Suriname Development. After President Ronald Venetian’s victory in 1991 CE, relations between the Netherlands and Suriname improved significantly.


Under a year later, Lieutenant Colonel Bouterse again shifted power to the civilian government, again led by the opposition. Since then, Suriname has been properly governed by a coalition government. From 1991 CE to 1996 CE, the president was Ronald Venetian, an antagonist of Bouterse. During the 2010 CE presidential election, Bouterse was ultimately elected president.

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