Some applauded the idea, others criticised it and Croatia’s minister for veterans’ affairs Predrag Matic published it. On 19 December the Veterans Register went live, into the cyberspace – names for eternity, with pride – said minister Matic.
In my last post on this issue I feared that the register would create a monster- and it has.
Indeed, regardless of the accolades pinned to the Veterans Register by the Croatia’s government – minister Matic said on the occasion of launching the website that this was the most honourable register in Croatia’s history and that the names in the register were inscribed into Croatia’s foundations – the Veterans Register has in its post-natal moments created monumental controversies, contention, bitterness, and floods of complaints pointing fingers to masses of fraudulent, false veterans.
War Veteran’s Minister Predrag Matic says that the Register will help out veterans to easily access benefits and secure their rights, whilst “weeding out” false veterans. It has been widely reported that there have been many who have enjoyed the benefits of the status as a War Veteran even though the closest they came to the war was watching it on TV.
It seems that patterns of behaviour towards achieving personal gain instituted by the Communists in former Yugoslavia after WWII are still alive and kicking. It’s widely known that the numbers of Partisan veterans swelled enormously after WWII in former Yugoslavia, where true and false veterans alike, reaped benefits (some still do).
The fact that false veterans can access War Veterans’ benefits over decades is beyond my sense of decency and democratic government’s obligation towards its people. However, it’s not beyond the governments that haven’t moved much away from Communist “tricks and party-palsy-walsy” style of pocketing the money that doesn’t belong to you.
This week, the Veterans’ Affairs Ministry had, within the first two hours of the Register going live, received some 10,000 emails from individuals reporting false veterans on it. Minister Matic has stated that such cases are to be forwarded to the police and the office of the public prosecutor and that his ministry will not deal with them. The problem is that some claim that there are about 150,000 (out of 500,000 on the Register) false veterans and the administrative nightmare to sort the true from the false is growing by the day. Assuming this number of false veterans is close to correct it will take the best part of twenty years to sort this monster out.
All Minister Matic has to say is that the Register is a “living thing” and can be changed – added to or subtracted from.
Well, he is wrong. Veterans Register should be just that – nothing more and nothing less.
On quick search of the Register I discover that Dr. Franjo Tudjman, the first president of Croatia and commander of armed forces during the war to which these veterans on the Register belong, is not on the Register! According to those who compiled the Register Tudjman has not spent a single day on the battlefields or a single day working for the war effort away from the battlefields.
Croatia’s minister for internal affairs, Ranko Ostojic, confirmed that the number of veterans on the Register was incorrect. “I think that it’s very important that Croatia finally clears these numbers up … it’s necessary to differentiate between those who really were on the battlefields from those who crept into that list.”
In my view, it’s contemptible what the veterans’ affairs ministry has done. To have the true and deserving war veterans exposed to suspicion and derision by being associated with false veterans and parasites (as is the case in this Register) is unforgivable. Minister Matic now expects the citizens, the police or the public prosecutor to do the job he should have done prior to publishing the Register. Who, except a political spineless grub would launch a Veterans’ Register (the pride of country’s independence) that’s riddled with fraudsters and parasites? Not anyone who truly respects the contribution veterans have made to Croatia’s independence, that’s for sure. Not anyone who truly upholds the glorious dignity of that independence.
In my opinion, the publishing of such a shonky Veterans Register could only be done by those who in essence do not respect the true war veterans but who thrive on scandals, sensationalism and seeing people fighting in the streets; seeing neighbour go against neighbour – for that is what is happening: the hunt for false veterans has overshadowed the glory of the true ones. Nasty business – indeed. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)