Courtesy of: The Morning News
By: Rosalie Klein
Island dignitaries gathered before the eternal flame at the March 18 Monument in Oranjestad on Saturday, March 16, to honor the community spirit that launched the movement for “Status Aparte,” Aruban autonomy within the Dutch Kingdom.
In the shadow of his father’s statue, “Shon A (Albert) Eman,” Aruba’s Prime Minister Mike Eman welcomed not only politicians and government officials, but around a dozen of the original signatories of the petition presented by his father to the Dutch government during the famous round-table talks in The Hague on March 18, 1948. The monument is dedicated to that occasion, and the slabs of granite that flank the statue are etched with the 2147 names of those who signed the request that Aruba be independent of the other islands of the Netherlands Antilles. It was the Prime Minister’s grandfather, Jan Hendrik “Henny” Eman, who founded the AVP Party and rallied the petitioners to the concept. Unfortunately, it was not to be, when that entity was formed in 1951.
Saturday’s honoring included the launching of a special book commissioned by PM Eman’s administration, “March 18, 1948, Flag of Honor and Recognition.” A special commission, headed by Berto Pablo, was charged with finding the original signers of the petition and collecting their stories. As is to be expected, only a handful are surviving, but were proudly honored during this year’s wreath placing ceremony at the monument. The decedents of those who passed on were present in their memory. One, the 13 year-old great-grandson of Jose Omar Luydens, Steve Geerman, was a featured performer for the evening. Not only did the young man prove to have a delightful voice, but a sincere interest in island history and traditions, being the youth winner of the National Patriotic Song contest and choosing to dress in the style typical to gentleman in the era of Shon Albert Eman.
Prime Minister Eman personally presented to each of those who are featured in the book or their descendants a copy, which he was happy to inscribe after the ceremony. This first edition showcased 1500 of those who signed the petition, and they expect to print an appendix within a year after compiling a history and obtain pictures of the remaining 647.
Prior to unveiling the book, the annual ritual of placing memorial wreaths was performed by Prime Minister Eman accompanied by Secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers, Nicole Hoevertsz, on behalf of the Aruban Government.
A wreath from the AVP Political Party was place by Vice President of Parliament Chris Dammers joined by Clarisca Velasquez. The March 18 Monument Foundation was represented by Director Mary Wever-Lacle and her grandchildren. The Eman Family wreath was placed by the newest generation, young brothers Sam and David Eman.
This year, the official memorial event had a special significance, conveyed the Prime Minister, in not only remembering a few, but all those in the community whose support for their leaders encouraged them to take up fight for Aruba’s right to self-direction. Though not officially realized until 1986, it was the key element to the island’s continuing prosperity and development.