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The strive for Separation

Jan Hendrik Albert (‘Henny’) Eman can be considered as the pioneer of modern Aruban politics. He was born in 1887 and in 1922 he was elected as 'Landraad' of Aruba. A 'Landraad' was one of two elected members of the 'Raad van Politie' (Police Council) that was headed by the Lt. Governor. So it can be considered as the first governing body with elected members. In the beginning of the previous century, hardly anybody was interested in filling the position of Landraad. And the electorate, the group of people who were allowed to vote, was also linked to a series of conditions that ranged from education and prosperity, to being admitted after a certain 'voters test'. The number of active voters therefore was very limited: in 1931 for instance Doctor A. Dussenbroek was elected Landraad with 171 votes and Jan Hendrik Eman with 144 votes. A lot more than in 1929, when only a total of 201 active voters went to the polls.

Jan Hendrik (Henny) Eman

For the 1931 elections, Henny Eman already used a well known tactic to attract voters: in Noord, he distributed soup amongst the school children. That year, Aruba suffered from drought and consequently from famine.
In the rules and regulations of the Raad van Politie there was an article that made it possible for ordinary citizens to ask and to be granted permission to speak from the public stands, in order to have their say about whatever was on their mind. Henny Eman used this opportunity several times when he was no longer a Landsraad. He did this to voice the desire of the Aruban people to be their own master. He gave this strive the beautiful name of ‘Separación (separation).

Henny Eman stamp

In 1941, Henny Eman was elected in the 'Staten' (National Parliament) of the colony of Curaçao; the Antilles, as we know them since 1954, did not exist as yet at that time. He distinguished himself from his colleagues from the other islands by standing up time after time for the interests of ‘his Aruba'. Even if there was a vote about a matter that did not concern Aruba, he voted in a way that assured him of a vote of another Member of Parliament in return when it did concern Aruba at another moment. The Curaçao Staten was at the time the only body where the interests of Aruba could be defended. There was no Parliament yet on our island.

Henny Eman simply set himself up in the Staten as the ‘leader of Aruba’. The result was that, at the end of the thirties, in the beginning of the forties, Aruba attracted some attention: in 1939 and in 1942, some members of the Staten even visited Aruba, even if it was for only a few days. Result however of such a lightning visit was the suggestion that the Raad van Politie on the island had to be expanded and had to be assigned more power.

In the forties, a commission was for the first time put together to study political issues. The Oppenheim commission proposed a so-called 'Eilandenreglement' (Regulations for the Islands), where every island was to get its own Island Counsel. It would still take years – it was war time – before the proposition reached the Staten but it never made the agenda. But the call for separation on Aruba grew louder and louder.

After the war (1946) too, the Ellis commission studied the projects for political reform that had to be discussed on a Commonwealth conference. As to Aruba, the advice was decentralisation.  

Shon A Eman (Abogado di Pueblo)

In 1947, Henny Eman organized a petition amongst  Arubans to register the wish of the people to separate from the Colony of Curaçao. Notary Lampe made up the deeds that were signed in all districts of the island. About 120 deeds were made, each one with several pages containing a long list of signatures of 2147 Arubans, which had to be presented to the Netherlands.

In 1948, the first Round Table Conference (RTC) was held in The Hague. For Aruba, Cornelis Albert (Sjon A) Eman had been delegated. He was a lawyer and the son of Henny Eman. Since 1939 he was Landraad for Aruba. In 1946, the Raad van Politie had already sent him to the Netherlands as a delegate, carrying a petition in which self-government for Aruba was asked for. In 1948, his father, Henny Eman, was member of the Staten in Willemstad and party leader for the Arubaanse Volks Partij A.V.P.

Shon A Eman (left) in consultation, RTC 1948 

On the RTC of that year, the conference 'took note' of the wish by Aruba to obtain a separate status if a new system of laws within the Kingdom was established. The date Eman presented the motion was March 18 of that year, a date that is still honored every year as national day of Aruba. This petition was the first document that actually put the desire for separation into words. But no concrete result was obtained at that time. However, an agreement about the repartition of the number of seats in the new state regulation was reached where Aruba as well as Curaçao would get 8 seats each, which was to be known as ocho-ocho (8-8).

Henny Eman (mid.), Shon A Eman (ri.) with Queen Juliana

Moreover, a special commission got the assignment to study a possible separate status for Aruba at the installation of a new system of laws in the Kingdom. The joy on Aruba was great, but it ended in disappointment: a so-called Interim regulation decided that the equal distribution of seats was off: it was to be 12 for Curaçao against 8 for Aruba. The recommendations from the commission that contained independence for each of the islands of the Netherlands Antilles, were not implemented either in the new state regulations.

 Shon A Eman stamp

This so-called Interim regulation was the cause of quite some unrest on Aruba and of tensions within the Aruban politics; the two most important Aruban politicians, Henny Eman and Juan Enrique (‘Juancho’) Yrausquin, who appeared together on the same political list (AVP), were now diametrically opposed to one another: Eman was satisfied with the regulation and approved of it. In 1949, this discussion caused the founding of a new political party: next to the Arubaanse Volks Partij (AVP) headed by Henny Eman, founded in 1942 already, there now came the Partido Patriotico Arubano (PPA), headed by Juancho Yrausquin. In December of 1950, both lists appeared at the elections. It turned out that Eman’s electorate consisted mainly of Arubans from the city and the cunucu (countryside), while Irausquin relied on the ‘new’ Arubans, the Lago workers in San Nicolas that originated from the Windward Islands.

Juancho Irausquin

In 1951, the Raad van Politie was abolished and replaced by the 'Eilandsraad' (Island Counsil), which granted some autonomy to the island. Landsraad Shon A Eman was elected as member of the council. He was to remain member for 16 years, till his death in 1967.

At the second Round Table Conference in 1952, there was no question in the draft for the new Charter of an alleged right of self-determination for the islands, which would mean the right to separate from the new legal order.

In 1954, the Charter of the Dutch Kingdom came into effect, in which guarantees were built in to prevent domination by the Antilles or by Curaçao.

Juancho Irausquin stamp

After the death of Henny Eman in 1957, the leadership of the AVP was taken over by his son, Shon A Eman. That's when the party started to lose her political influence to Juancho Irausquin's Partido Patriotico Arubano. He died in 1962, Shon A Eman in 1967. With the death of both prominent politicians, Aruba also lost two statesmen who incorporated the strive for independence of the island.


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