It’s been over three months of continued protest by Croatian war veterans in which they are camped out in front of the War Veterans Ministry building in Savska street, Zagreb, seeking among other things better treatment for war veterans, especially for the disabled veterans, a legislative protection of veterans’ rights, a move to remove veterans’ rights from the country’s “social welfare” laws and returning the same into laws and regulations that deal exclusively with veterans’ rights, a cessation of current government’s attempts to equate the victim with the aggressor, as well as resignation of War Veterans Minister Predrag Matic and two of his close advisers.
These men and women who protest in the Savska street tent were the warriors who stood up for freedom when, after the 1991 plebiscite 94% of Croatian voted elected to secede from communist Yugoslavia, many rebel Croatian Serbs and Serbia waged brutal was of aggression on Croatia’s sovereign territory.
These protesting men and women are among those who make up the very heart of independent Croatia today. And that is why they are gaining widespread support of Croatian people as well as veterans’ associations and many politicians.
On Thursday 29 January 2015 representatives of protesting war-invalids veterans walked out of parliament shouting “Shame on you” after the Speaker Josip Leko, citing Standing Orders, refused to allow them to address the parliament. Parliament was to have discussed reports on the implementation of the law dealing with veterans’ rights, the rights of their families and the operations of the Fund for veterans and their families. Josip Dakic, HDZ member of parliament asked that the veterans be given ten minutes to address the floor but this was denied.
The war veterans wanted to have a say before the members of parliament on matters that affect their lives and welfare directly, and which matters are closely associated with the parliament’s agenda of the day! The Speaker refused to allow them to speak!
How awful and disgraceful!
The opposition parties, HDZ and HDSSB, requested a break after Leko turned down their request that veterans’ representative Djuro Glogoski address MPs before the reports were submitted.
Speaking after the break, Ivan Suker of the HDZ said Glogoski should have been allowed to take the floor “so that you can see that they are not protesting for material rights, greater rights, but for dignity and respect for those who defended their country with bare hands.”
Suker accused the ruling coalition of lack of sensitivity. He said veterans “put parts of their bodies into the foundations of the Croatian state and are asking that what they did doesn’t get forgotten.”
Speaker Josip Leko insisted, in cold blood: “I’m in charge of protecting procedure and this is a guarantee that parliament acts on democratic foundations, and some Standing Orders provisions concern the Constitution. Who can speak in parliament is part of the democratic procedure. I don’t intend to bargain with love for veterans and the Homeland War by arbitrarily running the session.”
A standard should be established beforehand, Leko said. “Otherwise we will turn into a debate club and I want no part in that,” he said.
The déjà vu here from the communist Yugoslavia times is astounding! Indeed, shame on Leko and shame on the Croatian parliament!
The Croatian parliament’s rules of procedure, in Article 224, for example, says that the Speaker suggests the agenda for the sitting/meeting, in writing… that the Speaker can during the parliamentary sitting change the Agenda in a way whereby he/she will take out certain items or add new items to the Agenda if at least 1/3 of representative request the change in writing…And since the Speaker Leko waved the connection of Standing Orders with the Constitution it’s shameful and alarming that he did not, after refusing the war veterans to speak to the parliament on Thursday (because of allegedly not fitting into the Agenda or Standing Orders), mention the constitutional provision for the parliament to call an emergency session on this issue which has crippled Croatia for months!
Also, the opposition parties HDZ, HDSSB … should “put their money where their mouth is” and instead of just commenting on and criticising the move by the Speaker to deny the war veterans’ speaking to the parliament, start and finish the formal process of seeking an emergency session of parliament which would give the war veterans the floor for the day and in relation to the law that directly affects their welfare.
Speaking to the press afterwards, Glogoski voiced his bitterness, saying everyone could be discussed in parliament except war veterans. He rejected the Standing Orders interpretation of who was allowed to take the floor and said Leko disappointed him. “Anyone can address parliament if the speaker and the parliamentary groups agree on it,” he said. “This incident convinces that, after all, the Croatian parliament if not a home of all Croats and that only certain people can speak in it, those elected by the people but not those who are most deserving for the creation of the Croatian homeland,” Glogoski continued.
One cannot but shudder from horror at what ensued after the above incident in the Croatian parliament: word spread that the police were planning to swoop down on the war veterans tents on Savska street in Zagreb and forcefully bring the protest there to an end. While the war veterans minister Predrag Matic denied any knowledge of this, or that it had substance, he stated: “The only thing I can confirm, and I hope you’ll understand that I am ironic, is that we have 100 or 200 special police force members, armed to their teeth, staying in the cellar of the ministry building and all are of Serbian nationality…”. This statement is no irony; it’s a direct attack on and intimidation of war veterans who defended Croatia against Serb aggression and an attempt to continue vilifying the justness of Croatian War of Independence. It’s a direct vilification of Croatian war veterans for not in one single moment during the 106 day protest have any of them said anything against Serb nationals; one does not expect much better from a minister who obviously draws his strength from the former communist regime but one does expect the people in a democracy to do their best and hardest to rid Croatia of such political garbage.
The man, Predrag Matic, has no place being a minister for veterans’ affairs and this latest statement of his adds to the justification of the protesting veterans’ plight. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)