Remembering “Bloody Easter” of 1991, Croatia

"Blood on Easter" newspaper photo report by Mario Profaca, 31 March 1991

An incident at the Plitvice Lakes, Croatia, at Easter time in 1991, marked the beginning of the Croatian Homeland War. This incident took the life of the Croatian Police Officer, Josip Jovic, the first Croatian casualty in what was to become a terrible war, a bloody war. Croatian people decided to secede from communist Yugoslavia and Serbians decided to stop the secession by any means.

On 29 March 1991, the Plitvice Lakes management was expelled by rebel Krajina Serb police under the control of Milan Martic (sentenced by ICTY to 35 years prison for war crimes in Croatia) supported by paramilitary volunteers from Serbia proper under the command of Vojislav Seselj (Serb, currently in ICTY on strings of war crimes in Croatia charges).

On Easter Sunday, 31 March 1991, Croatian police entered the national park to expel the rebel Serb forces. Serb paramilitaries ambushed a bus carrying Croatian police into the national park on the road, sparking a day-long gun battle between the two sides. During the fighting, two policemen, one Croat, Josip Jovic and one Rebel Krajina Serb, Rajko Vukadinovic, were killed.

Croatian freelance Jounalist Mario Profaca sent me yesterday a photo (above) of the front page of Slobodna Dalamacija newspaper 1 April 1991 with headline that reads “Blood on Easter”, with the photos he took at Plitvice at the time.

Profaca wrote yesterday: “… At that time, together with Croatian policemen, on 31st March 1991, I went to Plitvice in the early hours of the morning and there we found a large number of barricades from which the Serbian terrorists were shooting at all vehicles that were there. Josip Jovic was hit near the post office building, bullets shot through his bullet-proof vest and soon he was taken to the Ambulance van but died on the way to the helicopter. The same evening, 31 March 1991, in Split, the next day’s edition of the daily newspaper was out with the headline and my photo-report from the location and from that time in Croatian history this day is called the Bloody Easter.”

Saturday 31 March 2012 marked 21 years from that incident and a commemorative service held at Plitvice Lakes.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic at Plitvice Lakes 31 March 2012 Photo Robert Fajt/cropix

Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic attended the ceremony, which commemorated the death of Josip Jovic, and said: “Today we celebrate freedom, peace, courage, heroism, patriotism and justice. It was courageous and just to stand here in Plitvice and defend the Croatian homeland, win in Homeland War, protect the values that are part of our constitutional system”.

 We have challenges in our efforts and needs to ensure our citizens a better living standard, prosperity and to stop all those who would want to turn back the wheel of history. As it was courageous and just in the 1990’s to fight against Chetnik ideas just as it was in the 1940’s, so too today, when some want to turn back the wheel of history, we need to say no,” Josipovic said to those Serbs who are attempting to rehabilitate the WWII war criminal Draza Mihailovic.

Today we have to tell them no. Croatia will remain a diligent, just country focused on reconciliation and coexistence, democracy and human rights. We want to clearly say that those values do not go hand in hand with the ideas that fed aggression, death and undermined human rights.”

Your son is our hero,” Josipovic said to the late Josip Jovic’s mother, “your son is our son, your son is all these values we cherish and which we will leave for our children to inherit. Thank you for giving birth and for bringing up your son, thank you, thank you to all war veterans and to all who had taken part in the Homeland War, because you have all contributed immeasurably to our future.”

The 21st anniversary of the first casualty of the Homeland War and the operation known as Bloody Easter was also attended by War Veterans Minister Predrag Matic, many of those who fought in the war, and representatives of the Interior Ministry and the Armed Forces as well as two candidates for the May elections for leadership of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Darko Milinovic and Tomsilav Karamarko.

Lest we forget!

Ina Vukic, Prof.(Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Tomislav Karamarko: A good notch above all new candidates for Croatian Democratic Union leadership

Tomislav Karamarko

The Croatian Democratic Union (CDU) (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica/ HDZ), having been the predominant force in national politics in the two decades since Croatia split from Yugoslavia, has been facing a struggle for leadership after steep parliamentary losses (December 2011) and allegations of corruption of individual former leaders or party dignitaries.

A month after  CDU lost at general elections and its leader Jadranka Kosor was replaced as Prime Minister by Zoran Milanovic of the Social Democratic Party (December 2011), five candidates have emerged to challenge Kosor for CDU party leadership.

Contrary to the view one may form from following the Croatian media, this, of course, is a normal event. Everywhere one looks (in developed democratic societies) electoral defeats are assessed; political parties re-grouped, new programs emerge … Every political party in the democratic world undergoes (or should undergo) a major “SWOT” (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) analysis after a defeat at general elections.

Such a “SWOT” analysis is, I guess, best done as a group “brainstorming” effort within a party/organisation. But, proposals made by individuals are also acceptable and indeed can create a refreshing change if changes within a Party or its programs are needed.

Changes to a political party after electoral defeats are those, should be those that reflect the best interests and needs of the people (voters) within the democratic State.

On January 23rd, CDU announced that presidential elections will be May 20th at the party’s 15th general assembly.

Soon after, Jadranka Kosor had announced her candidacy for re-election as leader (president) of CDU and so had five other members of CDU. The five new candidates are: Marko Karamarko (former minister of internal affairs); Milan Kujundzic (medical doctor), Darko Milinovic (former minister of health); Domagoj Milosevic (former deputy prime minister) and Drago Prgomet (member of CDU central committee).

Most candidates for CDU leadership go about building a public profile of themselves – hoping I guess that the information will flow to party members and translate into votes at the general assembly in May.

Some candidates try to impress by “name dropping” of “world VIP’s” they know or who support them (e.g. Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel) (Kosor), some have announced retirement from politics if they’re not elected (Milinovic), some claim that CDU is sick and needs to be cured and that with the disappearance or weakening of CDU, the Croatian state is also endangered, democracy disappears (Kujundzic), and so on.

Well, there is no way that democracy can disappear from Croatia because it’s well rooted in the political system with many (maybe too many) political parties floating around. CDU as a political movement had made sure of that from the very beginnings of Croatian independence, under the leadership of Franjo Tudjman.

Judging by the fact that there are 6 candidates for its presidency, CDU is in strife.

Change seems imminent if it wants to secure electoral victory for government at the next general elections. Relationships and mechanisms within the party itself don’t interest the public (except members of the party), what interests the public is/ will be: can CDU be a better governing party than the current Kukuriku (Cock-a-doodle-doo) alliance or any other political party/alliance that may emerge as a serious contender at next elections?

Kosor is a “known” quantity and CDU had lost at the general elections miserably, despite her excellent leadership in bringing Croatia to the doorstep of EU membership and not doodling around the fight against organised crime and corruption.

With the dynamic, often confusing and comic commotion created by the mere existence of 6 candidates for the presidency of CDU and the spins the Croatian media churns out on a daily basis, Kosor just might be re-elected. Better the “devil” you know … as the proverb goes. She certainly has the stamina to change CDU internally, give it the facelift it needs in becoming appealing to the electorate again.

From the new 5 candidates for CDU presidency Tomislav Karamarko stands out by miles from the others.

One knows where one stands with Karamarko: he takes his “political” job seriously, dedicates himself in achieving results and outcomes in difficult circumstances – he is a people man.

As police minister he had mounted a determined, hard fight against corruption and organised crime as well as pursuing Communist crimes from WWII and after. He recognised the high importance these issues have to the future well being of the Croatian nation and acted accordingly.

When in February 2011 asked if he had political ambitions Karamarko replied: “Every person who’s within the political sphere must have political ambitions. My ambition is to be useful to this country.”

There are those in Croatia who consider Karamarko too right-wing to be “liked” by EU circles and that as such he would not be accepted.  That’s plain wrong and mere political point scoring. Right-wing political parties, conservatives, are well alive and kicking across the EU and the Western world, even the far-right parties such as the British National Party hold seats in EU Parliament.

One only needs to look at the interactive map produced by the Guardian in UK last year to see how more and more EU countries, faced with economic and immigration problems, are turning conservative.

Croatia needs more of right-wing orientation in order to become stronger as an entity within the international arena, to be recognised as a force that has a great deal to offer and share.

Karamarko now takes this attitude of being useful to his country into his election campaign for the leadership of CDU. For him, CDU is a mere vessel to “deliver the goods” for all the people of Croatia. And that is what a political party must do.

Karamarko freely and with confidence points to his loyalty to Croatian independence, to paths laid down by Franjo Tudjman – free, sovereign, democratic and prosperous nation that upholds the values of the Homeland war and war veterans.

Recently Karamarko was interviewed on Osijek TV about his candidacy for president of CDU and from about 9.00 min on the televised interview above he said:

My main platform: Economic independence is essential for national independence. We have sovereignty, constitutional, legal…  but it should not remain a dead letter on paper … if we’re not going to have economic independence … the program with which I’m coming out in the coming month, month and a half …  is actually called ‘New Croatian Independence’ where I place an accent on entering European Union, how are we going to be in EU?

 Are we going to be swept away because someone is going to buy out our I would say valuable potentials, economic, natural, water, sea and in the end the potentials of our people, or are we ourselves going to make use of them in adequate and useful ways…in the way that we will offer something to the EU and take something from it.

.…and there in that correlation, that co-existence, one sees I would say a good future.

 What I like to say is that we need to enter the EU with a name and a surname.

We cannot enter it as some breakaway part of former Yugoslavia but as authentic Croatian value with diligent quality people we have… look, our people everywhere in the world in EU function fantastically somehow we function the worst in Croatia but, here, Croatia has neared, entered the EU and there is no reason for us not to achieve those standards while protecting our what I call potentials whether they’re human or natural economic

… see what we can offer, Europe needs to see our values, in reality it already has, and that’s why we’re entering into the EU  but we need to protect that we are the ones who inherit the results of this good position of ours, the geostrategic and everything else that are our potentials”.

There’s no sense in beating around the bush: both the CDU and Croatia are in strife. CDU, rightly so, wants to be in government again – as any serious political party does; Croatia is in economic turmoil with alarming downturns and existential fears spreading like wildfire at the grassroots of its growing numbers of unemployed. To top the latter the sense of “everything will be all right, EU will help us” seems to pervade throughout the Croatian society.

No, EU will not help the people – any help from economically embattled EU would only be makeshift, band-aid. Croatian people simply must turn to themselves and overcome the economic strife they’re in, by utilising more their own great people potentials and those of natural and industrial resources.

Tomislav Karamarko’s program, message, is clear on this and if that means his political orientation is palpably to the right, that can only be good, that can only be right, just as it is in the many countries of EU today.

It’s been over a hundred years when in April 1899, in Chicago, Theodore Roosevelt (US conservative/Republican president 1901-1909) said:

Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness”.

CDU (HDZ) has seen Croatia through more than a tolerable share of difficulties and tragedies, national and personal. The past twenty years have been unkind to Croatia and yet, it has prevailed. One learns by one’s mistakes, and mistakes are an inherent part of development and growth. CDU will overcome this strife, this test of time where many destructive forces within and without Croatia continue trying to destroy the national pride that has sustained Croatian people through centuries of oppression and hardships. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: