Booing and jeering grew louder on Monday 5 August in Knin as Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic climbed onto the podium to deliver his address to the crowds celebrating Croatian Victory and Thanksgiving Day!
Milanovic walked to the podium to cries of “don’t let him speak”, “You don’t love Croatia”, “Monkey”, and “Manure” as the crowd showed their disapproval at Milanovic’s government’s policies over the last 18 months.
Milanovic spoke with a loud and forceful, somewhat embittered tone, evidently trying to outdo the jeering, whistling and booing from the crowd. As much as his speech contained praise for Croatia’s war efforts towards its independence and democracy, saying it was a righteous path, his words fell upon many disbelieving ears. After all it was Milanovic who only a few months ago wickedly said that Croatian Homeland War of 1990’s was a kind of a civil war similar to the one that had occurred in Finland!
After all, it’s Milanovic who confuses the issues about the War in Croatia; it’s Milanovic who has never expressed a strong and consistent view about the righteousness of Croatia’s fight for secession from communist Yugoslavia. Perhaps this is so because he has difficulties handling freedom and self-determination as the right of every citizen, singularly and/or as a nation.
Booing, jeering, whistling … at Knin, August 5:
The Police in Knin wasted no time is arresting one of the loudest men from the Knin crowd who booed, whistled and jeered at the Prime Minister. Police are still combing through video footage in order to gather evidence for further arrests! They say that the charge is disturbing of public peace!
“During the speeches from high-ranking state officials they whistled and yelled and created a racket disturbing the peace. One person has been arrested and will face court action at the Knin court, whilst investigation continues to catch the other culprits,” said a police statement. Monday’s official ceremonies were filmed and police will trawl through footage and have warned more people will face charges in the following days.
Booing, jeering and whistling at high ranking elected officials as they speak is a form of freedom of expression regarded as very normal behaviour of disapproval in developed democracies. It’s not swearing, blasphemy or what have you of the same offensive nature. Well not so in the apparently neo-communist arcades of the Croatian political scene – to “offend” a political leader, who happens to come from former communists ranks, by booing, jeering, whistling at him is obviously now considered a form of penal (read criminal) behaviour. Just as it was when communist Yugoslavia was alive and kicking its force around.
It’s blatantly and painfully obvious that democratic expressions of approval, or disapproval, have taken a serious step backward in Croatia during the past week; during the past couple of years…
Up until 1990, i.e. during the times of communist Yugoslavia, there was no booing, jeering or whistling at politicians while they spoke. To do so was dangerous and without fail landed one behind bars and ostracised as “unsuitable citizen” for life. This was just one ugly and brutal face of the Communist Party in Yugoslavia. Oh sure, they spoke of “socialism with a human face” but really that human face was defined by the communists as the one that had to be compatible with Party lines. Bitter experience led the people into growing careful as to what to say or not to say; one simply knew which words or non-verbal expressions of disapproval of political elites would land one behind bars, earn beatings, prison sentences …
Judging from what happened in Knin on Monday there is no doubt that Croatia is seeing a re-introduction of oppression, of fear mongering…of repression of freedom of expression. Threats made by the police (after arresting one man) to arrest more people for booing, jeering and whistling at public officials cannot be interpreted in any other way. These moves are not isolated or independently made by a local police station – they are part of the fabric of the newly “refreshed” police force padded with those that bow, nod and support the government which has major difficulties adjusting to democracy and abandoning the control freak show Yugoslavia was exposed to.
So, I ask myself: where did and how did Croatia stray from its primary goal set through 94% of democratic vote in 1991? Where did the message “we want to move away from totalitarian communism and move towards democracy” get lost in the past ten years especially? Why have so many Croatian politicians lost sight of that primary goal and wobble around interpreting – often recklessly – the events from the war rather than keeping check on how is democracy (the primary goal) is faring?
“Now is the winter of our discontent” are the opening words of Shakespeare’s play and lay the groundwork for the portrait of Richard III as a discontented man who is unhappy in a world that hates him. The brooding malevolence that Shakespeare has Richard personify mirrors the playwright’s view of the state of the English nation during the Wars of the Roses. Closer to our times, The Winter of Discontent refers to the winter of 1978–79 in the United Kingdom, during which there were widespread strikes by public sector trade unions demanding larger pay rises, following the ongoing pay caps of the Labour Party government led against Trades Union Congress opposition to control inflation, during the coldest winter for 16 years.
And, given the widespread disillusionment of Croatian people with the government and various politicians in opposition who expressly feed political divisions from the past, whose actions like the one above in Knin remind of painful and loathsome past, who have degraded and belittled the value of battles for democracy and exit from communist Yugoslavia, who have done little in putting right the thievery of national assets through corrupt individuals in high position, who evidently have little clue as to how to install an economy for betterment of citizens’ lives … I wonder if we are not looking at the Winter of Croatia’s Discontent that is simply bound to end, sooner than later, in widespread unrest that will bring new breath of life to the goal set by the people in 1991 (full democracy and freedom) and which goal has become buried amidst the kicking and screaming of die-hard communists. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)