Above: Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman
By Alexander Britell
Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman is currently on a hunger strike, protesting alleged interference from the Dutch government in Aruba’s affairs.
Tuesday was the fourth day of Eman’s hunger strike, following a decision by the Dutch government to have Aruba Governor Fredis Rufenjol carry out an independent investigation of Aruba’s budget and the tenability of the island’s finances.
The Dutch government has maintained that it is concerned about the “sustainability of public finances in Aruba,” including a national debt it says has “doubled in a few years.”
“The budget is a country affair, but the Governor can hold a national ordinance if it goes against Kingdom interests,” Dutch Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk told Parliament Tuesday.
Plasterk alleged that Eman had made arrangements with the Dutch government about conducting the independent investigation on July 3 but last week expressed that his government did not desire to fulfill the arrangements.
Alleged interference from the Dutch government has long been a sensitive issue for the countries of the Dutch Caribbean.
Aruba seceded from the now-dissolved Netherlands Antilles in 1986, becoming a country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
On Tuesday, St Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams traveled to Aruba at the invitation of vice Prime Minister Mike De Meza to show support to Eman.
Wescot-Williams said the precedent for “the government of the Netherlands meddling in the affairs of countries in the Netherlands” was set in 2013, when St Maarten was instructed to carry out an integrity assessment.
“This precedent was created when the Kingdom Government instructed the Governor to do the Kingdom Government and that is what we have been seeing at this time,” she said Monday. “I warned all stakeholders that this was going to happen and they are using the same approach in Aruba. All of our requests were overruled at that time and the Kingdom Government refused and they are doing the same thing on Aruba.”
Wescot-Williams also sent a letter to the Minister Plenipotentiary of St Maarten to Aruba, Mathias Voges, expressing St Maarten’s “solidarity with the government and people of Aruba.”
“We cannot have outside influences from the Kingdom Council of Ministers interfere in the autonomous affairs of a country,” she said. “There was an understanding that they would investigate the budget; there was an agreement to an investigation but not that the Governor would have been instructed not to sign it.”
Eman also found support from Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, who urged his followers on Twitter to “support brave Aruba PM Mike Eman’s hunger strike.”
“He’s turning Aruba 100% renewable, Dutch gov should help not hinder,” Branson wrote.
Eman, who won re-election in the island’s September 2013 election, has pledged to make Aruba 100 percent reliant on renewable energy by the year 2020.
Speaking to Dutch media on Monday, Eman said he was “prepared to die.”