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Society of Suriname

Suriname Council


Autonomous Territory


Suriname Armed Forces

Suriname Police Corps





Suriname was claimed for the Spanish crown in 1593 but attempts to colonize it were soon abandoned.

The next Europeans who came to Suriname were Dutch traders who visited the area along with other parts of the South America’s ‘Wild Coast’. In 1630, English settlers led by Captain Marshall attempted to found a colony.

In 1650 Lord Willoughby, the governor of Barbados furnished out a vessel, to found a colony in Surinam. At his own cost he equipped a ship of 20 guns, and two smaller vessels with things necessary for the support of the plantation. Major Anthony Rowse settled there in his name. Two years later, for the better development of the colony, he went in person, fortified and furnished it with things requisite for defence and trade. ‘Willoughbyland' consisted of around 30.000 acres and a fort.

On 26 February 1667 the colony was invaded by seven Dutch ships (from the province of Zeeland), commanded by Abraham Crijnssen. Fort Willoughby was captured the next day and renamed Fort Zeelandia. On 31 July 1667, the English and Dutch signed the Treaty of Breda, in which for the time being the status quo was respected: the Dutch could keep Suriname and the British the former Dutch colony New Netherland (today’s Northeast USA), occupied by the British in 1664. Willoughbyland was renamed Dutch Guyana. This arrangement was recognized by the Treaty of Westminster of 1674, after the British had regained and again lost Suriname in 1667 and the Dutch had regained the colony of New Netherland in 1668. The colony was administered by the States of  Zealand. In 1682 it was handed over to the West India Company.

In 1683 the Society of Suriname was set up, modelled on the ideas of Jean-Baptiste Colbert to profit from the management and defence of the Dutch Republic's colony. It had three participants, with equal shares in the society’s responsibilities and profits - the city of Amsterdam, the family of Aerssen van Sommelsdijck, and the Dutch West-India Company. The family Van Aerssen sold its share in 1770 to the city of Amsterdam. In 1792 the Society came under the supervision of the Council of the Colonies of the Republic.

In 1795 Suriname was united with the colonies of Berbice, Essequibo and Demerary. In 1799 it was occupied by the British until 1802 and again from 1804 until 1814. After the defeat of Napoleon it was returned to the Dutch by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814.

In 1816 the Dutch government resumed the administration of the colony and from then on it was under the jurisdiction of the ministry for the colonies and its successors.

In 1954, Suriname gained self-government, with the Netherlands retaining control of defence and foreign affairs.

In 1973, the local government, started negotiations with the Dutch government about independence, which was granted on November 25, 1975.


Heraldry [1]


In the early days of European settlement, when the colony was still called “Willoughbyland” the arms of the Willioughby family may have been used. These were: Azure, fretty Or.  No trace of these arms has been found in the Caribbean.

When Suriname was under Zealand rule the arms of this province were the arms for the colony.


Governor Heinsius of Suriname (1678-’80) felt the need for arms and a seal when he wrote to the States of Zealand on 24 March 1679:


“The seal would be profitable in course of time when it could be brought into circulation, but it would be necessary that Your Highnesses would send over stamped paper for this purpose, because there are no seals here, so I help myself with little papers, as enclosed herewith, instead of seals, but it pays not very much. There should also be a coat of arms here for this province.” [2]


At the same time Heinsius invented a symbol for Suriname consisting of a parrot. He intended to print this on the coinage for circulation in the colony. This however was thwarted by the Zealand States which wanted to introduce Zealand coinage there. Nevertheless some coins have been minted by Heinsius, bearing a parrot as a symbol of the colony. These coins are known as “Papegaaienpenningen”.


In the interim period of the rule of the West India Company the seal and cypher of the W.I.C. were in force.


Society of Suriname

1683.05.21 - 1795.10.30


A seal for the Society was provided for in an act of 17 August 1683:


“After the previous deliberations it has been approved and understood that by this the sum of thirty guilders will be paid to George Bourgeois, smith, to make the iron screw and stamp for the Great Seal of the Society, and to Moses Bellanger, cutter of arms for the cutting and engraving of the said seal ten silver ducats, the receipts for this will be laid out and made”. [3]


A print of this seal is on letters dated 20 and 29 March 1684. It shows the achievement of the Society as in use until 1770.


The achievement contains the achievement of Amsterdam, the seal of the West India Company and the arms of Van Aerssen. In nombril point is the cypher of the Society of Suriname consisting of two entwined “S” and in base a picture of an Arawak Indian.

Two other Arawaks support the shield.

The motto  JUSTITIA PIETAS FIDES  means:  Justice Faith Loyalty


Achievement of the Society of Suriname and the arms of its shareholders

By Bernard Picart, 1720. (Coll. Stadsarchief Amsterdam)

The arms are from:

On the left: E.v.d Bempden, Willem Buys, Will Boreel, J. Althusius, Paul v. der Veen.

On the right: Wigb. Slicher, C. Graafland, Ferd v, Collen, F. v. Sommelsdyk, Joh. Will v. Meel.



The achievement of Amsterdam, known from about the middle of the 16th century, was:

Arms: Gules, a pale Sable charged with three crosses saltire Argent.

Crown: The crown of the Emperor of the German Nation of the Holy Roman Empire.

Supporters: Two lions


The arms of  Van Aerssen were:

Arms: Quarterly: 1 & 4: Or, a fess sable and a cross saltire chequy Sable and Argent over all (Van Aerssen); 2& 3: Or, three merletts Sable; and an escutcheon Azure, a fleur-de-lys Or.

Crest: A crown on a helmet [lambrequined Sable and Or].




Achievement of the Society of Suriname 1684-1770

as on the “Placaaten van Gouverneur en Raad en Suriname”  (1760-’61).

(Algemeen Rijksarchief, Den Haag, W.I. Suriname 405)


After the Van Aertssen family had sold its share to the city of Amsterdam the arms of Van Aerssen were omitted from the achievement and a new seal was cut.

The new achievement was:


Arms: the achievement of the city of Amsterdam in chief and the arms of the West-India Company in base, separated by a ribbon with the motto IVSTITIA PIETAS FIDES and the letters S S; all with some green foliage.

Supporters: Two Arawak Indians armed with bows and quivers, the sinister one also with an arrow.

Modern print of a wooden seal of the achievement of the Society of Suriname  (1770-1795)

(Penningkabinet R.A. 83)



Seal of the Society of Suriname, 1789.

The achievement of the Society and the year 1789.

(Coll. Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam)



Seal of the Society of Suriname, 1794

The achievement of the Society and the year 1794.

By Courtesy of the Geldmuseum, Utrecht.

The new achievement was also engraved on the seal of the Society. A polychromized sculpture of it is in the tympanon (1780) of the Palace of the Governor / President in Paramaribo.


Suriname Council



By decree of 1 November 1795 the Suriname Society, together with the Direction of Berbice and the Colony Council (which administered the former possessions of the WIC), were abolished. The three administrations were replaced by a new one, the “Committee for colonial affairs and the possessions on the coasts of Guinea and America” (Committé tot de zaaken van de coloniën en de bezittingen op de kust van Guinee en America).

The seal of the Committee showed the Batavian lion, armed with a sword and supporting a shield with the words COMMITTÉ TOT DE WESTINDISCHE BEZITTINGEN, standing in a landscape between a palmtree and a sailing vessel and the attributes of Mercury on the foreground. [4]


After the abolition of the Suriname Society which had as a consequence the disappearance of the interests of Amsterdam in the colony, new arms were put into use by the Raad van Suriname (Suriname Council). These consisted of the arms of the West India Company only, with the motto JUSTITIA PIETAS FIDES in orle in chief. The arms were again supported by two Indians, like the arms of the Society of Suriname before. [5]

Seals with the new achievement are preserved in the Money Museum in Utrecht. They are:



Seal of the Suriname Council, 1795. Æ 56 mm  [6]

 (By courtesy of the Geldmuseum, Utrecht).


Arms: a sailing vessel, from the stern a flag of three stripes [red-white-blue] with the cypher RVS on the central stripe and the motto IVSTITIA PIETAS FIDES in orle.

Supporters: Two Indians armd with bows and arrows.





Seal and lesser seal of the Suriname Council, 1798.  [7]

Æ 51 mm and 33 mm respectively. By courtesy of the Geldmuseum, Utrecht


Arms & Supporters: as before. On the base: 1798.


In 1799 the British put the colony under their protection. It is said that they continued the use of the seals. This, indeed was in agreement with the British policy in the colonies as Barbados and Jamaica had been granted seals for use by their commisionaries at the Admiralty Office in the 17th century.


The Colony of Suriname

1802 - 1954


By decree of 18 February 1803 the arms on the seal were replaced by the arms of the Republic and any use of the ancient arms was declared null and void. The new seal, showing the arms of the Republic with the legend ‘Bataafsche Republiek’ and the word ‘Suriname’ in base, was introduced on 1 March of the same year. [8]


This seal was abandoned when Suriname was again occupied by the British. Again it is supposed that the British continued the use of the seals of 1795 and 1798 but no proof is given. [9] Probably the seal of the British Admiralty was used and also the British Royal achievement.


When Suriname was given back to the Netherlands in 1814, the Dutch administration was resumed in 1816. The colony came under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Commerce and Colonies (Ministerie van Koophandel en Kolonien) and its successors and as a consequence the arms of the kingdom were used.

Some confusion arises when a regulation is made in 1828 stipulating that on the seals of the notaries “there shall be engraved the arms of the colony, surrounded by the name of the sworn clerk”. No description of these ‘arms of the colony’ is given. but a decree about the seal of the colony of 1830 confirms again: “On the seal there shall be the crowned lion of the Netherlands with the legend ‘Kolonie Suriname’ in chief and the words ‘Klein Zegel’ in base”.


Nevertheless the traditional achievement was not obsolete and was, in any case by the Suriname Government, considered to be the achievement of the colony, be it that it was not officially adopted.  This is confirmed by a silver medal of 1837, today in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This shows the full achievement of the seal of 1795 and the legend: Het Gouvernement der Kolonie Suriname.


Foto RM. Amsterdam

Silver medal of the Government of Suriname (1837).

97 Í 84 mm. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, inv. nr. NG-NM-8989


Achievement with arms, motto and supportes as on the seal of 1795. A barrel and a crate added.

On the reverse: George, slaaf van de plantage Leasowes, penning door het Gouvernement der kolonie Suriname geschonken wegens bewezen trouw aan het wettig gezag tijdens de onrusten onder de slaven te Nickerie. (George, slave of Leasowes plantation, medal presented by the Goverment of Suriname for loyalty to the lawful authority during the revolt of the slaves at Nickerie.) 


Only a few years later, in 1865, paper money was printed on which the achievement appeared followed by many other occasions when the achievement was displayed.


A remarkable version of the achievement is on an anonymous photography, today in the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam. This shows the achievement acted, the supporters being two living men dressed as Indians. The shield they support is in a late-nineteenth century style, the ship on the waves realistically painted, the motto on a bordure with some foliage in base. [10]










The Achievement of Suriname acted. ð

(Coll. Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, Inv. Nr. 10020999)


A signboard with the arms of Suriname, surrounded by the motto is in the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam:



Achievement for Suriname painted by T. van der Laars.

From: Wapens, Vlaggen en Zegels van Nederland, Amsterdam 1913.


The waves barry Argent and Azure, the supporters looking outwards, the motto on a ribbon. Afterwards the arms of this achievement were taken for the Dutch West-Indies in general. 


Until 1959 however, there was no achievement for the colony granted or recognized officially.

This was in agreement with the policy of direct rule in the colonies. No coats of arms were granted also to the other territories under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Colonies. So, nor the Netherlands East Indies nor the Netherlands Antilles were granted an achievement of their own until after the Statute of the Kingdom in 1954.


Autonomous Territory

1954.12.15 - 1975


At last  an achievement was adopted by the Government of Suriname on 8 December 1959. The decree stipulates that ‘the absence of official arms acceptable for the national feelings is considered as a gap and that it is therefore desirable to adopt such arms by public decree’ and gives a heraldic description of the achievement in the next section:



1959                                                                                                             No. 104






LANDSVERORDENING van 8 december 1959

tot vaststelling van het wapen van Suriname.





In overweging genomen hebbende, dat het ontbreken van een voor nationale gevoelens aanvaardbaar officieel wapen van Suriname als een leemte moet worden beschouwd en dat het daarom wenselijk is zulk een wapen bij landsverordening vast te stellen;

Heeft, de Raad van Advies gehoord, met gemeen overleg der Staten, vastgesteld onderstaande landsverordening:


Artikel 1.

1. Het wapen van Suriname is een ovaal schild, overeenkomstig de navolgende heraldische beschrijving:


I.                    in azuur een aankomend zeventiende eeuw, geheel opgetuigd, driemast koopvaardijschip van goud, varende met volle zeilen op een golvende zee can zilver en azuur van vijf stukken;

II.                  in zilver een palmboom van sinopel, staande op een grond van hetzelfde.

In een ruitvormig hartschild van sinopel een vijfpuntige ster van goud.




met latijnse letters van sabel op een aansluitend lint van keel.


2. Bij landsbesluit kan worden bepaald dat het schild zal worden geflankeerd door twee indianen, zulks overeenkomstig de daarbij vast te stellen aanvullende heraldische beschrijving.


Artikel 2.

Behalve het wapen van Suriname wordt op of aan gebouwen, vaartuigen en voertuigen in beheer bij het Land, geen ander wapen aangebracht dan:

a.      het Koninklijk wapen, in gevallen en bij gelegenheden waar dit passend is;

b.      het wapen van een volkenrechtelijke organisatie, een vreemde mogendheid of een ander rijksdeel dan Suriname, indien het betreft een gebouw dat geheel of ten dele in gebruik is bij een officiële vertegenwoordiging van die organisatie, die mogendheid of dat rijksdeel;

c.      het eigen wapen van het onderdeel van ’s Landsdienst, waarbij het gebouw, vaartuig of voertuig in gebruIk is, indien dit wapen door de Gouverneur is vastgesteld of goedgekeurd.


Artikel 3.

1.    De van Landswege uit te geven merken en zegels, alsmede de bij ’s Landsdienst te gebruiken stempels, bevatten - al dan niet in kleur - het wapen van Suriname.

2.    het bepaalde in het eerste lid is niet van toepassing op merken, zegels en stempels voor het uiterlijk waarvan bij of krachtens enig wettelijk voorschrift afzonderlijke bepalingen zijn of zullen worden vastgesteld.


Artikel 4.

Deze landsverordening treedt in werking op 15 december 1959.


Gegeven te Paramaribo, de 8ste december 1959.



De Minister-President,

Minister van Algemene Zaken en

van  Binnenlandse Zaken,

      S.D. EMANUELS.

De Minister van Justitie

en Politie,



UItgegeven te Paramaribo, de 8ste december 1959.

De Minister van Binnenlandse Zaken




According to this decree the achievement is:


Arms: Per pale, the dexter Azure, a sailing vessel affrontée Or on a base barry wavy Argent and Azure of five pieces; the sinister Argent a palmtree on a base wavy Vert; and a diamond-shaped escutceon Vert, a five-pointed star Or.

Supporters: Two Arawak Indians armed with bows and quivers, proper, their loin-cloths Gules,

Motto: JUSTITIA PIETAS FIDES in black lettering on a ribbon Gules.


ð See illustration in the head of this essay.



1975.11.25 - present


A few days before independence it was decided that the achievement would be maintained but that the hair colour would be changed from “blond” to black. The leader of the Nationale Partij Suriname, Henck Arron declared “We have never seen blond haired Indians here”. [11]

Accordingly, the formerly henna-coloured hair of the Indians was changed in black, as can be seen on actual renderings of the achievement.


Governors and President


In the time of Dutch Rule the kings and queens of the Netherlands were the sovereigns of the Colony of Surinam. From the end of the 19th century until independence they were represented by a governor. From 1975 the head of state is a president.


Governor’s flag 1880-1954


Governor’s Flag 1954-1959


Governor’s Flag 1959-1975


President’s Flag 1975-present


Presidential Collar of President Venetiaan (2000-’10)


Sash of President Bouterse (2010-present)


Presidential Shield


Suriname Police Corps



A police force exists in Suriname from 1828. The actual Suriname Police Corps (Korps Politie Suriname) was formed by a reorganisation of the then existing Police Force in 1973. The corps is subordinated to the Minister of Justice.


The emblem of the KPS consists of a torch and two pistols in saltire, surrounded by branches of orange.

Motto: VIRIBUS AUDAX (Bold in Strength).



The arms (sleevebadge) of the corps consists of a black shield charged with the flag of Suriname in chief and the emblem in gold (for officers) or silver for the lower ranks..


The cap-badge consists of the emblem in white metal, worn on a blue cap.


Suriname Armed Forces - Nationaal Leger


The emblem of the Suriname Armed Forces consists of a circular shield charged with the initials SNL, supported by two arrows in saltire and with a motto on a ribbon below, all red.




The defense of the colony of Suriname for a long time was the task of the Mariner Corps (Korps Mariniers). In the Memorandum of Defense of 1951 it was decided that the defense of the West-Indies should remain the task of the Mariners. On 15 August 1952 however, the Dutch Government decided that the Royal Dutch Army would remain in Suriname instead. In September 1952 the 103rd Company of the Dutch Commandos was sent to Suriname. After the foundation of the Armed Force in Suriname (Troepenmacht in Suriname TRIS) the 103rd Company returned home in March 1953.

On the day of the proclamation of Independence (12.11.1975) the TRIS was abolished and its tasks and assets were handed over to the Suriname Armed Forces (Surinaamse Krijgsmacht SKM).

On February 25, 1980, a group of 15 non-commissioned officers and one junior SKM officer, under the leadership of sergeant major Dési Bouterse, overthrew the Government. Subsequently the SKM was rebranded as Nationaal Leger (NL), (National Army).









Emblem of the Dutch Mariner Corps

Cap badge of the Dutch Commandos


The oldest known sleeve badge of the Suriname Army consists of the Dutch Lion and the inscription SURINAME in orange embroidery within a khaki frame. (source unknown)



The arms of the TRIS were adopted by Army Order No. 60022 of 1960. [12]. They are:



Arms: Tierced per bend sinister red, white and blue, a golden Roman sword upright surrounded by five stars red, white, black, brown and yellow connected with a black oval.


The oval-and-stars, representing the five races of Suriname, is from the national flag, adopted 8 December 1959.


Army Emblem (after 1980)


Cap Badge 1975-present



The Military Police Corps is a division of the Surinam Army




Created 1977

Emblem Navy Headquarters


Air Force


Created 1982


Air Force Emblem





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© Hubert de Vries 2010-02-12; Updated 2010-03-01; 2011-10-20; 2015-03-03; 2015-03-30




[1] Felhoen Kraal, J.: 1. Het wapen van Suriname. In: Eldorado, 1950 pp. 65-73. 2. Wapens en Zegels van Suriname. Uitg. van het Indisch Instituut. Amsterdam, 1950. 31pp. 30 ill.. Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch West-Indië. Den Haag 1914-’17. Pp.734-735. Schutte, O.: Catalogus der zegelstempels, berustende in het Koninklijk Penningkabi­net en enige andere verzamelingen. In: De Nederlandsche Leeuw. 1971, kol 329-370.

[2]  “t Seghel soude metter tijt oock noch iets connen opbrengen als het in treyn conde gebracht werden, doch  ‘t soude nodich wesen dat Uwe Ed. Mog. gesegelt papier daertoe oversonden, alsoo hier geen segels sijn, soo behelpe mij met papiertjens, als hier ingeslooten, in plaets van seghels, doch het bechiet noch weynigh. Hier soude oock wel een wapen dienen te wesen voor deze provintie.”  Felhoen op.cit. p. 9.

[3]  “Is naer voorgaande deliberatie goetgevonden en verstaen, mitsdesen aen George Bourgeois, Smith, over het maken vande ysere schroeff en stempel tot het groot Zegel van de Societeyt toe te leggen de somme van dertigh guldens, ende aen Moses Bellanger, wapensnijder voor het snijden en graveren van het zelve zegel thien silvere ducatons, zullende de Quitantien voor deselve werden opgemaeckt en vervaerdigt”.  Felhoen, op.cit p. 12.

[4]  Schutte nrs. 104-105

[5]  Felhoen (note 40) states that these arms were printed on deeds and certificates as early as 1792 and 1793.  This seems quite enigmatic to me as the last seal of the Society of Suriname (1794) shows the arms of 1770.

[6]  Schutte nrs 107-108 Felhoen  fig. 21

[7]  Schutte nrs 109-110. Felhoen fig. 20

[8] Alg. Rijksarchief  W.I. Raad Amerik. Coloniën 175 (1802-1804) nr. 34/26/137.The decree reads:


Het Provisioneel Gouvernement der Colonie Suriname Rivieren en Districten van dien etc. etc.


Allen den geenen die deezen tegenwoordigen zullen zien ofte hooren leezen saluut!

doen te weeten: dat bij Besluit van het Wetgeevend lichaam der Bataafsche Republiek in dato 15 April 1802 is gestatueerd dat met vernietiging van alle tot heeden toe op onderscheiden tijden door het Hoogst Bestuur der Republiek vastgestelde wapens, zoo van de Republiek der Vereenigde Nederlanden als van het Bataafsch Gemeenebest, nu en in het vervolg, het wapen der Bataafsche Republiek zal bestaan in een staande goude Leeuw op een rood veld, dragende eene gouden Kroon op het Hoofd, en houdende in deszelfs rechterklauw een zilver opgeheeven zwaard, en in deszelfs linkerklauw eenen bundel zilvere pijlen, van een vrij talrijk doch onbepaald getal en hebbende wijders tot omschrift de woorden Concordia Res Parvae Crescunt. Dat dit voorschreeve wapen mede is worden vastgesteld voor de Coloniën en Bezittingen der Republiek, met dit onderscheid dat het omschrift Concordia Res Parvae Crescunt wordt weggelaaten, en in deszelfs plaats gesubstitueerd Bataafsche Republiek met het onderschrift Suriname, Zoo is het dat wij hebben goedgevonden hetgeen voorschreeve is ter algemeene kennisse binnen deese Colonie te brengen als meede dat laatst gemelde wapen met primo Maart aanstaande generaallijk alhier zal werden geintroduceert met bijvoeging dat van dien tijd af het gezeegelde papier met hetzelve wapen zal worden bestempeld en dat voorts geene andere zeegels hoegenaamd, voor deeze Colonie Surinamen van enige waarde zullen erkend worden.

Lastende en beveelende over zulks, alle op- en ingezeetenen, en alle anderen dien het moge aangaan zich dien conform te gedragen. En opdat niemand hier van eenige Ignorantie zoude kunnen pretendeeren, zal deeze alomme worden gepubliceerd en geaffigeert als naar gebruike. Actum Paramaribo den 18 February 1803.

W.O. Bloys van Treslomg

Ter ordonnantie van dezelve

Pringle, secretaris.

Te Paramaribo ter gepriviligeerde Drukkerij van van Engelen en Embrics.


[9]  Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch West-Indië. Den Haag 1914 -’17. Pp.734 - 735.

[10]  Photography of Julius Muller for the Koloniaal Museum in Haarlem, 1895. See: Suriname door het oog van Julius Muller. KIT Amsterdam, 1997. The purpose was to propagate migration of Dutch peasants to Suriname.

[11]  Het Parool, 1975-11-22. 

[12]  Coender, C.P. e.a.: The Sleeve Badges of the Netherlands Army. 1978. P. 36.

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