It goes without saying that, having seceded from the deeply entrenched totalitarian communist regime in 1991, and having as a consequence suffered profound human life, property and economic damage from Serb aggression, Croatia has been in a place of transitional democracy where under the banner of the buzz-word “democracy” a great deal occurs that is far from a democratic process one encounters in a developed democracy, or one expects. A stark example is when the government and the President of the country keep drumming: “law must be respected”! As if the nature and provisions under the law are something they have no control over. We see that in many examples in Croatia but perhaps the latest example could be seen in the area of law regarding bilingual signage and ethnic minority rights under the existing law. I have written rather extensively about the Vukovar case on this Blog. Instead of acknowledging the fact that the existing law is causing monumental difficulties and unrest among the people and going about its business of fixing the problem through assessing the law and possible need for amendments, the government acts like this: “ tough luck people, the law is here, it was passed in 2002 in its current form, it’s now to be applied in Vukovar and you can complain till the cows come home!” (And that’s with the fact that the full force of that law has not been applied despite the governments boasting about it, for if it had then the signs would not have gone up, would have been been torn down by the people…)
Another example of shoddy practices of democracy in Croatia at the moment also affects the whole nation but especially so the possibility of compensating people for the damage and severe losses sustained during the Serb aggression in the 1990’s in Croatia. Both the government and the president have been giving all sorts of statements that lead one to see that they are considering withdrawing the lawsuit against Serbia for genocide filed in the International Court of Justice in 1999.
Of course, judging from Serbia’s media, Serbia is gleefully rubbing its hands together at such a prospect.
And, bugger the multitudes of victims who deserve compensation at the very least!
Having lived in a western democracy for decades I see that there a big, big problem with this: the Croatian government does not to my and interpretation of many, have the mandate to withdraw the lawsuit which contains claims for compensation on behalf of multitudes of individual citizens.
I personally care very much for the victim and have, therefore, written yesterday an Open letter to Croatian citizens hoping to strengthen a democratic life, a fight for individual as well as national rights. I am grateful that a number of media representatives in Croatia have passed on my letter and the Croatian cultural council portal (HKV) was the first to act in publishing it on its portal. I hope the spirit and the thrust of my letter is picked up among people in Croatia and rigorous public actions organised.
This is what I wrote:
“For some time now I have been reading in the Croatian media that the current coalition government is contemplating withdrawing the lawsuit for genocide against Serbia filed at the International Court of Justice. Given that Croatia is aligned into the democratic government regimes allow me to offer you my assessment and my thoughts on that matter, and it is up to you how you will bring a true democracy into your lives and to your benefit.
On 2nd July 1999 the government of the Republic of Croatia filed the lawsuit against the Republic of Serbia (then known as FR Yugoslavia) in which, among other things, as parens patriae (father of country) it claims compensation for the damages suffered by people and property as well as by the Croatian economy and environment, caused through mentioned breaches of international law, in the amounts to be determined by the court.
Cock-a-doodle-doo coalition went to general elections in 2011 with its Plan 21 (its program when/if elected into government). It was elected into government on the basis of that Plan 21 and formed the government of the Republic of Croatia. But, Cock-a-doodle-doo had not in any part of its Plan 21 mentioned a plan to withdraw the lawsuit for genocide against Serbia, and which lawsuit directly and indirectly includes the rights of multitudes of individual citizens who had, through war destruction, suffered enormous personal losses and who have a right to compensation.
Accordingly, this government of the Republic of Croatia does not have the mandate to withdraw the lawsuit against Serbia without going through a referendum or, at least, public discussions that would include a large portion of the public.
Mandate to govern a country in a democracy is the authority to carry into action those plans that have been revealed by the party prior to elections. The work plans of a future government, which have not been revealed to the public prior to elections do not have a mandate after elections because there is the possibility and reality of democracy that the same party may not have won the elections due to widespread disagreement in the public with that plan of work.
And so, had the Cock-a-doodle-doo coalition revealed its plan to withdraw the lawsuit against Serbia perhaps it would not have won the elections. For, it is obvious that this lawsuit has to do with a matter that is of national importance.
Should the government continue its pursuits with the plan to withdraw the lawsuit against Serbia then citizens must seek public debates and/or a referendum on the matter because, at the end of the day, it has to do with their personal compensation (for which the government has no mandate to toy with) should the court rule in favour of it.
Of course, the withdrawal of the lawsuit against Serbia would also mean doing a favour for the political current that, for several years now, has attempted to equate the victim with the aggressor and it would leave the truth about the Homeland War to the mercy of history. These, though, are topics which are not the subject of this letter and other political analysts could perhaps address them better than I can, and my letter concerns the question of Croatian government’s mandate in the matter of contemplated lawsuit withdrawal, which question has a clear solution/answer within the frame of a democratic regime where no government has the authority to change the direction or state of a nationally important question if it failed to disclose such intentions prior to or during elections.
That is democracy and it is yours to live.
Ina Vukić, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)
Sydney, Australia, 28th October 2013.
CC: Prime Minister of Croatia, President of Croatia, Leaders of parliamentary opposition parties in the Croatian Parliament“