A Croatian Misery: War Veterans Denied Request To Address The Parliament

Front: Djuro Glogoski, invalid war veteran one of the leaders of Croatian War Veterans Protest Photo: Screenshot hrt.hr news 29 January 2015

Front: Djuro Glogoski, invalid war veteran
one of the leaders of
Croatian War Veterans Protest
Photo: Screenshot hrt.hr news 29 January 2015

 

It’s been over three months of continued protest by Croatian war veterans in which they are camped out in front of the War Veterans Ministry building in Savska street, Zagreb, seeking among other things better treatment for war veterans, especially for the disabled veterans, a legislative protection of veterans’ rights, a move to remove veterans’ rights from the country’s “social welfare” laws and returning the same into laws and regulations that deal exclusively with veterans’ rights, a cessation of current government’s attempts to equate the victim with the aggressor, as well as resignation of War Veterans Minister Predrag Matic and two of his close advisors.

These men and women who protest in the Savska street tent were the warriors who stood up for freedom when, after the 1991 plebiscite 94% of Croatian voted elected to secede from communist Yugoslavia, many rebel Croatian Serbs and Serbia waged brutal was of aggression on Croatia’s sovereign territory.

These protesting men and women are among those who make up the very heart of independent Croatia today. And that is why they are gaining widespread support of Croatian people as well as veterans’ associations and many politicians.

On Thursday 29 January 2015 representatives of protesting war-invalids veterans walked out of parliament shouting “Shame on you” after the Speaker Josip Leko, citing Standing Orders, refused to allow them to address the parliament. Parliament was to have discussed reports on the implementation of the law dealing with veterans’ rights, the rights of their families and the operations of the Fund for veterans and their families. Josip Dakic, HDZ member of parliament asked that the veterans be given ten minutes to address the floor but this was denied.

The war veterans wanted to have a say before the members of parliament on matters that affect their lives and welfare directly, and which matters are closely associated with the parliament’s agenda of the day! The Speaker refused to allow them to speak!

 
How awful and disgraceful!

 
The opposition parties, HDZ and HDSSB, requested a break after Leko turned down their request that veterans’ representative Djuro Glogoski address MPs before the reports were submitted.
Speaking after the break, Ivan Suker of the HDZ said Glogoski should have been allowed to take the floor “so that you can see that they are not protesting for material rights, greater rights, but for dignity and respect for those who defended their country with bare hands.”
Suker accused the ruling coalition of lack of sensitivity. He said veterans “put parts of their bodies into the foundations of the Croatian state and are asking that what they did doesn’t get forgotten.”
Speaker Josip Leko insisted, in cold blood: “I’m in charge of protecting procedure and this is a guarantee that parliament acts on democratic foundations, and some Standing Orders provisions concern the Constitution. Who can speak in parliament is part of the democratic procedure. I don’t intend to bargain with love for veterans and the Homeland War by arbitrarily running the session.”
A standard should be established beforehand, Leko said. “Otherwise we will turn into a debate club and I want no part in that,” he said.

The déjà vu here from the communist Yugoslavia times is astounding! Indeed, shame on Leko and shame on the Croatian parliament!

The Croatian parliament’s rules of procedure, in Article 224, for example, says that the Speaker suggests the agenda for the sitting/meeting, in writing… that the Speaker can during the parliamentary sitting change the Agenda in a way whereby he/she will take out certain items or add new items to the Agenda if at least 1/3 of representative request the change in writing…And since the Speaker Leko waved the connection of Standing Orders with the Constitution it’s shameful and alarming that he did not, after refusing the war veterans to speak to the parliament on Thursday (because of allegedly not fitting into the Agenda or Standing Orders), mention the constitutional provision for the parliament to call an emergency session on this issue which has been crippling Croatia for months!

Also, the opposition parties HDZ, HDSSB … should “put their money where their mouth is” and instead of just commenting on and criticising the move by the Speaker to deny the war veterans’ speaking to the parliament, start and finish the formal process of seeking an emergency session of parliament which would give the war veterans the floor for the day and in relation to the law that directly affects their welfare.

Speaking to the press afterwards, Glogoski voiced his bitterness, saying everyone could be discussed in parliament except war veterans. He rejected the Standing Orders interpretation of who was allowed to take the floor and said Leko disappointed him. “Anyone can address parliament if the speaker and the parliamentary groups agree on it,” he said. “This incident convinces that, after all, the Croatian parliament if not a home of all Croats and that only certain people can speak in it, those elected by the people but not those who are most deserving for the creation of the Croatian homeland,” Glogoski continued.

One cannot but shudder from horror at what ensued after the above incident in the Croatian parliament: word spread that the police were planning to swoop down on the war veterans tents on Savska street in Zagreb and forcefully bring the protest there to an end. While the war veterans minister Predrag Matic denied any knowledge of this, or that it had substance, he stated: “The only thing I can confirm, and I hope you’ll understand that I am ironic, is that we have 100 or 200 special police force members, armed to their teeth, staying in the cellar of the ministry building and all are of Serbian nationality…”. This statement is no irony; it’s a direct attack on and intimidation of war veterans who defended Croatia against Serb aggression and an attempt to continue vilifying the justness of Croatian War of Independence. It’s a direct vilification of Croatian war veterans for not in one single moment during the 106 day protest have any of them said anything against Serb nationals; one does not expect much better from a minister who obviously draws his strength from the former communist regime but one does expect the people in a democracy to do their best and hardest to rid Croatia of such political garbage.
The man, Predrag Matic, has no place being a minister for veterans’ affairs and this latest statement of his adds to the justification of the protesting veterans’ plight. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: WWII Communist Partisans Are Not Your Heroes – Homeland War Veterans Are

 

Croatian Homeland War Invalids  At protest site in Zagreb Photo: Borna Filic/Pixsell (click to enlarge)

Croatian Homeland War Invalids
At protest site in Zagreb
Photo: Borna Filic/Pixsell (click to enlarge)

Old habits die very, very hard, as the news reminds us every day, but change begins with illumination — attention, pointing, identifying and generally shining lights in dark places. However the president of Croatia, Ivo Josipovic, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Predrag Matic through their public comments continue to deride and belittle the group of protesting war invalids in Zagreb one thing is emerging as clear: the rally by the war veterans, which seems profoundly taxing on the already frail health of the war invalids, points very clearly to the fact that the Croatian Homeland War Veterans have not been afforded their rightful place as the nation’s heroes that they deserve. The current Social Democrat government and the current President of Croatia (the ideological heirs to the fallen communist Yugoslavia) have more often than not raised the value of WWII communist partisans for today’s Croatia far above the actual Homeland War veterans, who in fact were the ones that ushered today’s Croatia into the free and democratic world, sacrificing life and limb.
Monday, 3 November 2014 will mark the end of full two weeks since Croatian war invalids, Homeland War veterans took to the street in front of the War Veterans ministry building in Zagreb, setting up camp, staying determined in their demands for the protection of their rights, for the removal of the Minister for Veterans Affairs Predrag Matic and two of his closest aides and for certain legislative changes that would see veterans’ rights and plights for freedom and democracy included in constitutional law.
Indeed, the Homeland War invalids and veterans were born in Croatia when it was part of Yugoslavia under the dictatorship of Marshal Josip Broz Tito. They have worked and lived there ever since, experiencing firsthand the tumultuous history, including the repressions and then the fall of Communism, the disintegration of Yugoslavia through freedom loving plebiscites (in every state of former Yugoslavia bar Serbia), which resulted into hostile Serb aggression and the catastrophic violence.

The danger that the 1990’s Homeland War figures and real events disappear from memory, or their importance for today’s Croatian state, has been an ever-present concern among multitudes of Croats. Croatia’s so-called antifascists, those who still hold the WWII fighters for a new communist Yugoslavia as heroes have turned every political trick in the book to ensure that the meaning of the Homeland War events become distorted and manipulated by their political agendas. The pro-communist/socialist Yugoslavia left-wing governments and presidents (including the current ones), that the independent and democratic Croatia has had the misfortune of having, have consistently promoted a type of amnesia, which – if allowed to continue undisturbed – erases national Homeland War heroes and heroines from public consciousness. There was the era of de-Tudjmanisation, which commenced particularly after 1995 (after Croatia won the war of Serb aggression against it) headed by Stjepan Mesic, the Croatian president after Franjo Tudjman’s death, whose mission in life appeared to be nothing except the propagation of cruel lies against Croatian first president Tudjman and equating the aggressor with the victim in the Croatian Homeland War. The attempts by many a prominent politician, academics and leaders to reconcile Croatia’s WWII and post- WWII history as part of transitioning from communist totalitarian regime into a democratic one, based on individual freedom and responsibility, have been thwarted by the left-wing politicians every time the truth about communist crimes had stuck its head out into the public arena. Franjo Tudjman’s and Homeland War veterans’ struggles against the communist Yugoslavia and the 1990’s Serb aggression have in many important aspects evaporated from the public conscience; the fight to prevent the total and effective evaporation of the importance of Franjo Tudjman and Croatia’s Homeland War veterans for freedom and democracy has and is resting in the hands of the brave veterans and their supporters.
The current young generation in Croatia are quite ignorant of the Homeland War heroes. They don’t seem to fully understand what democracy means, how much has been sacrificed for their freedom, how much has been achieved and how much needs to be done. The livelihood and life’s advancement opportunities of an overwhelming number of Croatian young has been reduced by the incompetent government and the country’s presidential office to existential anxiety; poverty is sweeping away the courage to fight for the truth and it is left to the veteran few and their supporters, who still have fighting courage, to ensure Croatia of today does not lose its true identity amidst the communist lot.

Indeed, it was yesterday, Saturday 1 November, that the representatives of the Croatian network for combat against poverty, the Pulse of the People (Bilo Naroda), arrived at the protest site offering the war-invalids/veterans their absolute support. A joint statement by the network and the veterans’ association included that “the Croatian government representatives and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs publicly impose the idea of guilt sharing for the war in Croatia, and that one of their new tactics is the equating of the Croatian Homeland War with the Greater Serbian aggression and occupation through the manipulation of facts within the strategic documents towards the EU,” reports Vecernji List.

They say that they had noticed this manipulation in the draft of the operational plan “Competition and Cohesion” in which the government labels Croatia’s Homeland War as destructive. The Croatian veterans’ associations and the Pulse of the People association say that this document was only until recently written in the English language, therefore not transparent to the Croatian population, and that it describes the countless minefields in Croatia as the result of the Homeland War and not, as the facts are, as the result of the Serb aggression and occupation of a third of Croatia’s territory in early 1990’s.

It is through these and similar practices towards the Homeland War and its veterans that the Croatian government ignores the foundations of the Croatian state it governs, it does not engage in thorough solutions for problems that arose during the Homeland War and it manipulates the Croatian and worldwide public and it does not assist the veteran population to turn to the future. This is one of the reasons why we seek the replacement of minister Predrag Matic, his deputy and his aide,” said Ante Deur, president of the Assembly of the veterans of Croatian guard units.

The public talks of veterans’ privileges,” said Ante Deur on Friday 29 October, “and, yet, the children of communists enjoy privileges in Croatia.” He said that veterans’ rights must be part of the Constitution “so that no one could touch them any more”.

And indeed, the support for the war-invalids’ veterans is amazing; so many organisations and citizens are rallying behind them and also making sure they are fed and warm at the “camp” outside the Veterans’ Affairs building. And the light their protest is directing to expose the dark place of communism that still exists in Croatian politics becomes even more relevant when we come across the statement made last week in the city of Split by president Ivo Josipovic at the 70th anniversary of liberation of Split from German/Italian occupation: “Those who want some other Croatia, Croatia in which Kevo’s Pits are returned, Croatia in which the Partisans are declared criminals, Croatia in which history is not understood, are not doing Croatia any good.”

The reader needs to know that the “Kevo’s Pits” referred to by president Josipovic is a synonym for hundreds of mass graves and pits (close to 900) where hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of Partisan and communist crimes lie; still to this day without justice!

Evidently, Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic fails miserably to accept the Croatia created as a result widespread rejection by the Croatian people (1991) of the “Partisans’ Yugoslavia” and through defending of the idea of free Croatia from brutal Serb aggression. So who else but the veterans must persist in defending free and democratic Croatia from communist onslaught!? And as Djuro Glogoski, the president of Croatia’s 100% Military War-Invalids Association, said: the veterans are not placing their monetary payments or rights in the first place but their priority lies in their determination not to ever again permit the putting down of those who had participated in the creation of Croatia. “You shall never again trample on our dignity, and we shall be together in this to the end,” is Glogoski’s message to the Croatian government and leaders.

 

Djuro Gologoski President of 100% Croatian Military War Veterans Association Photo: Davor Puklavec//Pixsell

Djuro Gologoski
President of 100% Croatian Military War Veterans Association
Photo: Davor Puklavec//Pixsell (click to enlarge)

I say: Good on you – Croatian Homeland War veterans! Do not let the WWII past and communism that followed define Croatia’s present and future; make sure that Homeland War truth and the fight for freedom and democracy are! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatian Woman Veteran Dies Rallying For War-Invalids’ Rights

Nevenka Topalusic Croatian Homeland War Veteran and War-Invalid Held Onto Her Courage To Her Death

Nevenka Topalusic
Croatian Homeland War
Veteran and War-Invalid
Held Onto Her Courage To Her Death

 

What a tragic and sad week it has been for Croatia.

I’m here because this injustice is killing me. I went to war so that my children could have a better future but it turns out life is not better for me or for my children. I’m here today explicitly to fight for myself and for my children and I’m not moving from here, they can only carry my dead body from here, I’m staying here…as I say, only my dead body is leaving this place … if need be for years and years until I die, I will be here,” said the Croatian war veteran and hero Nevenka Topalusic on Monday 21 October 2014 standing proud among her colleagues Homeland War invalids in front of the Croatian War Veterans ministry building in Zagreb, where the veterans had gathered in their wheelchairs, propped on walking sticks and frames, in suffering from other terrible injuries such as the debilitating shell-shock and posttraumatic stress disorder – protesting against injustice towards war veterans, seeking that the Minister Predrag Matic and his closest assistants step down.

Tragically, Nevenka Topalusic died on the evening of the very next day (22 October), surrounded by her war veteran colleagues – right there at the protest site! Despite the fact that the serious and critical wounds sustained defending Croatia from Serb aggression in 1990’s left her “chained” to a wheelchair she came to Zagreb to join her brothers in arms for the protest, that is now as I write this post in it’s seventh day.

Nevenka Topalusic was a mother of four children; she was a heroine whose courage and determination for a better life, away from communist Yugoslavia and within democracy, reflects the profile of all war veterans, men and women.

 

Nevenka Topalusic  Photo: Boris Scitar/Pixsell

Nevenka Topalusic
Photo: Boris Scitar/Pixsell

“When there is talk of the Operation Storm (August 1995) we can rarely hear that women had participated in the hardest and the fiercest of battles,” says on the Croatian War Veterans’ website.
“Although less in number than men, there were women who charged forth in the front lines, with rifles in their hands. Or they carried their head in a bag, and in their hand a bag with medical supplies and First Aid kits. In spite of those who think that wars are not for women, Croatia has its own courageous female veterans who had acquired the veteran status during the war at the battlefields, not in offices away from them. However, no one knows how many women fighters had given their lives for the homeland and how many of them are 100% war invalids.

Why almost none of those who were at the front lines have received an officer’s rank? Why not a single one has been officially pronounced a hero? No one seems able to answer these questions. But women warriors are the proof that patriotism, courage and heroism have no association with gender.

Even 19 years after the Homeland War had ended tears welled-up in Nevenka Topalusic’s eyes as she recalled how, as the front line she fought with advanced against the enemy in central Croatia (Banovina) she came across the wounded soldiers among whom was her 18 year old son, Dubravko.

Topalusic attended to her son’s wounds and said: ‘Mummy must go forth. This is war’.

Topalusic was a senior nurse and followed and accompanied the 2nd Brigade ‘Thunders’ soldiers in battles; she saved countless lives while risking her own.

Her brothers in arms lay around her, dead or critically wounded. There was nobody to help her in the most difficult moments.

When Nevenka Topalusic died last Tuesday in Zagreb she still carried 28 shrapnel and bullet fragments embedded in her body, was confined to a wheelchair and battled with the consequences of her war wounds daily. But all this did not anger her as much as those who belittled her role in the terrible war”.

 

Candles for Nevenka Topalusic at the war-invalids' protest site  in Zagreb ,CroatiaPhoto: Marko Prpic/Pixsell

Candles for Nevenka Topalusic
at the war-invalids’ protest site
in Zagreb ,CroatiaPhoto: Marko Prpic/Pixsell

With the latter sentiment she joined the Croatian war veterans and invalids in the protest in Zagreb, seeking veterans’ rights that are reportedly being systematically taken away, bit by bit. The protest by the veterans and war invalids is showing no sign of winding down and on the sixth day, Saturday, 25th October, the protesting invalids have finalized and formulated their demands:

Besides the replacement/resignation of Veterans’ Affairs Minister Predrag Matic and his closest assistants, they seek the organisation of a public debate regarding the suggested changes and additions to the Croatian Veterans Act as well as the passing of the Homeland War Act and Croatian Veterans’ Act at the constitutional level.

Djuro Glogoski, the president of the 100% Croatian military war-invalids association said that the veterans seek that all those rights that have been transferred from the Rights of Croatian Veterans Act to the jurisdiction of other government departments, which include welfare, employment, children’s education etc., be returned to the jurisdiction of the initial veterans’ rights Act.

The veterans have agreed to a meeting with Croatia’s leadership but reject invitations to hold meetings at the government headquarters, at the parliament house or at the office of the country’s president – they seek that the meetings be held at the protest site and invite the Minister of Veterans Affairs to also attend but as a veteran, not as Minister.

It’s heartbreaking that Croatian veterans, war invalids, have a Minister who is incapable of dialog with those citizens for whose welfare his mandate dictates positive action. All I have been able to observe from Minister Matic during the past week is spite against the protesters, stubbornness and utterly repulsive and off-putting stance that tells me he is irritated at the suffering veterans for being loud about their rights and feels contempt for such expressions of freedom.

One would think that one of the basic human rights of those who lost their lives, limbs and/health for everyone’s freedom in a democracy is being able to voice ones complaints and requests without the fear of retribution, without the need to suffer. Not in Croatia, it seems – the Veterans’ Affairs Minister is waging a war against the Veterans! On Friday, 24th October, Minister Matic and his aide Bojan Glavasevic (whose resignation the veterans also seek) entered their office building accompanied by riot police, which – as one can imagine – stirred a great deal of disgust among the protesting veterans and the public. The protest has been peaceful at all times and yet this pathetic excuse for a minister brings riot police with him, saying it was not he but the police risk assessment unit who sent the riot police to accompany him!

 

Well, he could have rejected the accompaniment by riot police – but he did not!

 

Zagreb residents were came to give support to the protesting veterans during their sit-in on the ministry’s premises and the local office of the Red Cross organisation provided them with blankets, food and drink during the week. Minister Matic’s words (pathological boasting) that the man against whom the protest is waged (He) is fair and good because he had paid for the mobile toilets used by the protesters and he is paying for the electricity so the protesters in front of his office building could have heaters running in cold weather!

 

What a nasty piece of work this minister of the current Croatian government is!

 

Minister Matic fails to realise that he paid for nothing to benefit the protesters – Croatian taxpayers have, including the ones among the protesters! Besides, mobile toilets were brought there after his ministry refused to allow the war-invalid veterans to use the toilets inside their ministry building and after the veterans publicly protested against that!

The support for the war-invalid veterans’ protest is growing significantly by the day. The veterans have vowed not to stop protesting even if it means they’d be camped there in the streets till Christmas and beyond. Minister Matic is becoming increasingly stubborn and says that he too is a war veteran and that no one can force him to resign – but that he may resign if 50% of veterans want him gone! Evidently, Matic has learned nothing about democracy in the past twenty years: he holds that the mere fact of being a veteran gives him the right of being a Minister in the government. Well it does not! Every Minister must stand down in the face of protest from those his/her portfolio holds jurisdiction over – and the protesters outside his office are many from the 100% war-invalids population! The veterans are adamant that a number of their crucial rights have been either directly transferred to ‘unsafe’ portfolios in the government, and therefore under threat, or indirectly cut under Matic’s mandate as veterans’ affairs minister and they wish to correct such injustices. They also emphasise that the clause banning those who participated in the aggression against Croatia from entitlements to war veterans’ rights has also been removed from the relevant legislation under Matic’s watch. While Matic has denied this the veterans persist that such moves are another way of equating the victim with the aggressor. If this is proven to be the case Minister Matic not only deserves a forced resignation from the post but a permanent ban from any public office or job in Croatia. Personally, I wish the veterans strength to endure for it is heart-breaking to see that those we owe our gratitude for freedom and democracy must now, under this communist coloured government, fight, suffer and even die for what is rightly theirs. Nevenka Topalusic, may you rest in God’s peace and your courageous soul breathe strength into those who, like you did, must endure so that the values of the Homeland War and the rights earned through spilled blood and lost lives are kept firmly there where they belong – at the top of Croatian nations’ priorities. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Funeral of Nevenka Topalusic in Vrbovec, Croatia - Thursday 23 October 2014 Photo: Slavko Midzor/Pixsell

Funeral of Nevenka Topalusic
in Vrbovec, Croatia – Thursday 23 October 2014
Photo: Slavko Midzor/Pixsell

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