A joint funeral was held Monday 14 October in Sotin for 11 Croatian victims (4 Croatian soldiers and 7 civilians) of Serb aggression exhumed from a mass grave in April this year and only recently forensically identified in Zagreb. The youngest victim was 25 and the oldest 72 years old at the time of their brutal murder in December 1991. Yugoslav-Serb forces brutally occupied Sotin on 14 October 1991 and mass murders of Croats occurred soon after.
Present at the funeral were family members of the victims supported by numerous Homeland war veterans and other Croats from Sotin, Vukovar and from across Croatia. Present were also Vinko Kovacic, representing the president of Croatia, Zeljko Sabo, mayor of Vukovar who also represented the Croatian Parliament, Bozo Galic, representative councillor for Vukovar-Srijem region and Croatian government representative Predrad Matic, minister for the veterans.
Archbishop Djuro Hranic reminded that in Sotin, on the outskirts of Vukovar, 64 villagers were killed or murdered during the Homeland war against Serb aggression and there are still 18 of them on the missing list.
Archbishop Hranic emphasised that people of Sotin had been searching for their loved ones for years, in a peaceful and non-aggressive manner and said that “simply nothing less than that can be expected”, nor can they give up looking for those who are still missing.
The unpleasant twist to this funeral was that minister Matic was whistled at, albeit with some constraint one usually finds in such circumstances blended at funerals with respect for the dead. Minister Matic, whose stubborn and cold approach regarding the heavily weighing issue of bilingual signage, is particularly unpopular among veterans’ associations who are fighting to achieve the status of special piety for Vukovar and, hence, exclude the city from having bilingual signage (Croatian Latin and Serbian Cyrillic) on public buildings. Many Veteran organisations simply do not accept him as their representative.
As reported by Dnevno.hr, Matic commenced his funeral speech with “Dear guests and invitees!” What happened to say: “I have come here to pay respects…” – the funeral was certainly not an event where guests come as per invitation. Bad taste, awful mind-set.
It is to be noted that all individual Serb nationals charged in Croatia with the mass murders in Sotin live in Serbia and Croatia cannot prosecute; Serbia it is said is still investigating these murders! So much for Serbia’s efforts in expediting reconciliation!
Croatian veterans pursue their rejection of bilingual signage in Vukovar as written in my previous post on the matter,however all their actions and protests have been put on temporary hold in honour of the funeral for the victims of Sotin. Croatian veterans’ website further says:
“While many citizens of Vukovar prepared for attending the Sunday Holy Mass they were greeted with a ‘greeting card from the Croatian government’ in the form of ‘strong police forces and the mounting of new bilingual signs in the city of Vukovar”.
The tearing down of signs by the people, by family members of those murdered during the war, by veterans and their supporters, the government had responded by replacing them with new ones in Vukovar. No dialogue still between the government and the veterans regarding the veterans’ pleas for Vukovar to be declared a place of special piety. To pour more oil on this nationally distressing issue there had been activities in support of Vukovar’s Croats in other towns across Croatia. That is, bilingual signs were taken down by unknown persons in Vojnic and Krnjak – places where these signs have existed for years without any problems. Again, the government swiftly replaced those signs.
So, instead of dialogue we have the situation where bilingual signs get torn down by the people and the government swiftly replacing them. The government has expressed a slight inclination to hold talks BUT only with the veterans and place of its choice; calling the shots instead of negotiating with the people at the front of discontent and moves to declare Vukovar as special place of piety. Hm, someone should ensure reason prevails here and it looks as though it won’t be the President of Croatia for he said a couple of days ago that his calls for dialogue have failed and that the situation is most serious.
One would expect a much more decisive action from the President than: “I’ve tried but they won’t come!”
In the meantime, since the government has done nothing in regards to the veterans’ calls for the 2011 census figures to be reviewed – a new count of people living in Vukovar area be done – the veterans’ are not standing idly but are pressing ahead with checking that census data themselves to see whether in fact there are not as many Serbs living there as the census said (about 34 %). The veterans have forwarded a letter to the President and the Prime Minister in which they claim that the 2011 census figures are wrong, that Vukovar’s population does not consist of one-third Serb ethnic minority (which is the point at which bilingual signage can be erected according to constitutional law/but not if it creates unrest) and in which they sent evidence of more than one thousand of Serb nationals who are according to 2011 census living in Vukovar but in fact are not there but living in Serbia or elsewhere or registered at non-existing addresses!
Corruption comes in many forms and one of those forms is evidently in the fact that the Croatian government at this stage does not want to check the facts regarding the number of people from ethnic minorities actually living there, the number of false registrations. Mind boggles as to why the government keeps its stubborn and chillingly aloof stance in this, pouring thus oil on the unrest, which many in the world would see as ethnic intolerance in Croatia! Given that the veterans’ association has in a relatively short period pin-pointed to more than a thousand falsely registered Serbs in Vukovar (which is not a small number given the size of population) one has every right to be alarmed and concerned. Veterans have an absolute right to truth especially when that truth has and is hurting their lives, their families, their society. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)