When a publicly recognised person comes out with criticisms against a head of state (president), which lead people to believe that a head of state must not engage in open diplomacy, then the democracy and its full implementation in that state are threatened with great instability.
I have followed closely the past week in Croatian media where almost all media outlets copied verbatim Vice Batarelo’s Facebook criticism against the president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic’s for attending a meeting/forum on 9 March organised in New York by the Clinton Foundation to raise awareness that women are “not there yet on issues of gender equality”. While the media in Croatia presented Batarelo’s Facebook criticism of president Grabar-Kitarovic as a news item it certainly made its expected rounds in many a politically conscious threads of the Croatian society as some kind of proof that Grabar-Kitarovic is not a good president – because “even her conservatives are criticizing her”!
“ She should have not attended the meeting at Clinton Foundation … I think it would have been better had the president spent her time in New York or Washington with countless and very influential conservative organisations, think tanks and institutions,” wrote Batarelo in his critique, saying that “Bill and Hillary Clinton are known supporters and promoters of the culture of death, i.e. ‘for abortion’, against ‘traditional’ marriage and against other traditional values. They systematically deconstruct the traditional and conservative values upon which USA and the Western world are built. Gender equality sounds good, but it’s a screen for global promotion of killed unborn children…”.
Vice Vincent Batarelo, born in Australia in 1969 but went to live in Croatia in 1990, describes himself as a “new conservative” and had gained public recognition particularly through participating in the organisation and eventual success of the 2013 referendum that sought the definition of a marriage be included in the constitution of the state as “life union between a man and a woman”. Some describe him as a “professional Catholic”. He is the president of the Catholic Vigilare association in Croatia, which describes itself as an association that “promotes citizens’ participation in the civil and political sectors of society and the preservation of dignity and rights of the individual, family and values of life”.
To my opinion, Batarelo was either delusional or politically dishonest when he said in his critique that this meeting at Clinton Foundation was a private one and that the president of Croatia (as president) had no place being there. He acknowledges that the president needs to engage with all and cannot isolate herself but that this meeting was private! What Batarelo omits to say is that the right to encourage, the right to warn is part of the presidents role and if encouraging better rights for women takes Grabar-Kitarovic to avenues not organized by governments or states or the UN – those are the avenues she need to also take.
How “private” this meeting was could perhaps be judged by the list of influential attendees:
“ (Hillary) Clinton was joined at the event by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, and Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Global Initiative, which forms part of the Clinton Foundation.
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the first female president of Croatia, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Prize laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai and Debbie Sterling, founder of the girls construction toy company GoldieBlox all spoke at the launch,” writes NEWSWEEK.
This Batarelo’s attack on president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic certainly is far removed from Vigilare’s values in promoting the rights of the individual! If anything, it actually denies such rights and is hostile towards anyone who may think or acts differently to what Batarelo thinks should be done.
Batarelo’s attack against president Grabar-Kitarovic for attending a meeting in New York, organised by what he calls the left side of political orientation, his aggressive manner that’s akin to someone who appoints himself or herself as some moral arbitrator for the whole of the Croatian society – reminds me of the way things were in the former, communist Yugoslavia! In practice, the ruling communist party dominated the formal institutions of state. Power remained rooted in the communist party and, hence, anything that strayed away from its ‘moral line’/political line was dealt with swiftly, harshly and quashed in one way, or another. One could get arrested and imprisoned for attending a meeting where the agenda was not commensurate with the communist line.
The importance of civil society for the well functioning of a democracy cannot be over emphasized, and the protection and the respect of individual rights to differing opinions on matters of morality or politics fall into this category.
While Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic aligns herself with the modern conservative political orientation and was presidential candidate of HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union it is to expected, if democracy is to survive and grow in Croatia, that her presidency will be marked by open diplomacy, that is, without hostilities towards those who think differently. She has shown that such is her way of leadership and good on her. And certainly, participating in a discussion and worldly directions of women’s rights – gender equality – or any rights for that matter, is a place which she as president should frequent and be recognized as exercising her role as president; as leader of a nation still struggling in bringing full democracy to life. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)