Another aspect to the debate about the new Consulate in Melbourne

Vinko Rizmal of Melbourne opens another aspect to this debate.

In the last few weeks we could hear and read a lot about the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne. The event itself created a lot of unhappiness among us. By listening to and reading statements by the main actors, it is obvious there are lots of contradictions. It will be interesting to see what view and final decision the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of RS will take when the authorised diplomatic supervisor delivers his report.

It is obvious that our fellow Slovenian Mr Peter Mandelj of Melbourne who was introduced by the Ambassador as the most important Slovenian in Victoria  has a lot of say in this matter with his advice and statements. Even Mr Derry Maddison in his response to Mrs Draga Gelt stated that he set up his list of invited guests upon consultation with Mr Mandelj. It is therefore no wonder why only members and organisations that belong to Mr Mandelj's circle were invited to the event whereas important individuals, members of the former Slovenian National Council of Victoria, people who put in most effort in the recognition of independent Slovenia in Victoria and in Australia, were left out.  

In his last interview for RadioSlovenia, journalist Toni Laternar talks to Ambassador Mr Balažic, Mrs Draga Gelt and Mr Peter Mandelj respectively. In it, Mr Mandelj states that he has no intention of debating this issue as it is damaging to all of us... and that he supports resolving such problems by communication and mutual understanding. This statement must have a special meaning. It is interesting that Mr Mandelj speaks of dialogue and co-operation when many of us know him from a different side.
Thinking about this I remembered the period after 1988. With great interest I opened "Naša bitka za Slovenijo" issued by the Slovenian National Council Vic Australia to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the plebiscite in Slovenia in 1994. The brochure details the contribution of Australian Slovenians in the fight for independent Slovenia.  It was greatly edited and put together by Stanka Gregorič and her associates and published with the sponsorship of the National Council of Victoria (available here).

Ambassador Mr Balažic talks about years of hard work by Slovenian associations to finally succeed in establishing a Consulate in the state of Victoria. The reasons for this long delay are many, but the main blame lies in our non-cooperation and  the attitude and inconsistency of Slovenian politicians when dealing with Slovenians who live beyond Slovenian borders. In short, we and our relationships play a part in this Slovenian debacle, at least as far as Slovenians in Victoria are concerned. Mr Mandelj has been at the helm of Slovenian associations, joint together in the Council of Slovenian Associations of Victoria (Svet slovenskih organizacij Viktorije - SSOV), for more than 25 years. In February 1992 when the Australian government recognised Slovenia's independence, this great event was celebrated by a Ceremonial  Evening which Mr Mandelj and all other presidents of associations included in the SSOV, despite being invited, did not attend. The same thing happened again when the Slovenian National Council of Victoria organised a gala evening to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the plebiscite in 1994.

There are a few exception, however. In 1991-92, the president of the Slovenian Association Melbourne was Mr Andrej Fistric jr.  Under his leadership, the Slovenian Association Melbourne supported activities of the Slovenian National Council. The Council's activities for independent Slovenia were also always supported by the Slovenian club in St. Albans. 

It is also important to note that the Council's manifestations in Melbourne were widely supported by our fellow Slovenians regardless of the club to which they belonged.

As one of its activities, the Council established a Charity Agency which operated for more than twelve years by providing general assistance to our compatriots in Melbourne.  Like with many other established activities of the National Council, the SSOV refused to support it.

All successful manifestations in Australia relating to Slovenia's independence were carried out with Victoria wide and Australia wide support from the Slovenian community.

The Slovenian National Council records do not show any letter or response to our offers of cooperation about which Mr Mandelj, who was elected/nominated to the position of our top representative in Slovenia under an unclear system, talks today in the abovementioned interview.  I am pleased with his decision that after twenty years he wants to start uniting our fellow Slovenians by dialogue and to resolve our disputes.

There is a lot more that could be said but I am sure there will be another opportunity for that.

Wishing you pleasant reading and reminiscing,

Vinko Rizmal  
(Coordinator for the Ceremonial Evening to celebrate the recognition of independent Slovenia and Coordinator for "Naša bitka za Slovenijo")

Statements made on this blog are the personal opinions of the commentators and do not necessarily reflect those of the blog owner.

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