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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

On the Statehood Day

Mr Brežnik's speech (available in English here) in Slovenian Association Sydney last Sunday was published in the Slovenian weekly Reporter.While it was online generally very well received, one of the commentators made a typically nasty remark:

"And now little Australian  domobranci will open their traitor traps and tell us what is right and what not? In 1945 they quickly fled 10,000 km away to the Southern hemisphere and now they want to teach us Slovenians lessons? No way!"

Comments under articles in Slovenian papers are usually very biased; this one, however, is so frequently repeated that I feel it is perhaps a good idea to say a few words about it.

Slovenian government has always had an ambiguous relationship with migrants. On one side, it has always supported Slovenian organisations abroad even when they represented only a small minority of the migrant population; provided grants;  promoted learning of the Slovenian language, and organised and sponsored many different cultural workshops. On the other hand, there has also always been a hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) tendency to treat migrants as traitors and deserters. 

It has always been insinuated that those who left Slovenia in 1945 were cowards and traitors because they ran away. But what were they running away from? Most of those who left Slovenia in 1945 were simply trying to survive! They were forced to flee - and leave most of their belongings behind - to avoid certain death which befell those who stayed or were returned by the British forces to the Yugoslav army. Calling them traitors and cowards is deeply offensive to each and every one of them. Had they had a chance to stay and live peacefully in their homeland hardly anyone would have left. 

However, just to set the record straight, Australian Slovenians mostly arrived in their new country in the 50s and 60s, Mr Breznik one of them. Not many among them could qualify as true political migrants who fled their country for fear of being executed. Nevertheless, they mostly could not see themselves living in Yugoslavia for whatever reason. Some were persecuted due to their family background, others felt they had no future financially and there were others who were just adventurers. Whatever their reasons, they were valid and should be respected.

But to return to the intolerant comment above, it is also a reflection of the current situation in Slovenia where everything is painted as black-and-white and nothing in-between. 

Worse still, it seems that in Slovenia some people have succeeded in adding another layer to the black-and-white spectrum. These are deeply rotten power brokers who work hard to make black look white and unfortunately they are able to convince general public that black is indeed white.

There is a whole brand of thinking that comes from one specific university centre where future ministers and party leaders are learning how to make undemocratic, totalitarian thinking look democratic. This is not so-called 'massaging the truth' or 'selling the message' - this is a conscious effort to hide the truth and cover it with a believable lie. This is called gaslighting. The Slovenian people have been gaslighted for so long that they completely lost their compass.

Many Slovenian politicians are great masters of this art. They found new parties a month before the elections, get a lot of biased promotion in the media and can reasonably expect to be elected to the new Slovenian parliament. The Slovenian people never question whether such people are capable of running the country.

It is not just politicians who participate in this upside-down world of mirrors and lies. It is also the Slovenian judiciary which feels that sending the leader of the opposition to prison three weeks before the general elections is somehow legally justified. 

By moving him to a low security section three days after imprisonment where he is allowed to use his mobile and has access to the internet they also want to show the world that they don't really mean it. Former Slovenian president Kučan has already indicated that the judiciary is 'not infallible'. Which probably means that Janez Janša will soon be released and his sentence repealed!!? 

It has all become a game for them. A game in which the truth is the real casualty. 

Slovenians, please learn - as fast as you can - how gaslighting works! The good news is that with awareness it can be fixed.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Celebrating Slovenia Statehood Day - Speech by Mr Alfred Brežnik

Speech by Former Honorary Consul General Mr Alfred Breznik in Slovenian Association Sydney on Sunday, 22 June 2014


Dear President of Slovenian Association Sydney Mr Štefan Šernek and Mrs Ana Šernek, dear Board and Association Members, representatives of Slovenian organisation, guests, dear friends,

In the absence of both representatives of the Republic of Slovenia, the Ambassador and the newly appointed Honorary Consul for NSW Mr Anthony Tomažin, our president Štefan asked me to give a speech to celebrate 23rd anniversary of Slovenia statehood.


It is good to see so many people gathered together every year at the Slovenian Association Sydney to celebrate this historically most important day for our nation that took place 23 years ago: the birth of our independent state, the Republic of Slovenia, on 25 June 1991. It is our custom to start this ceremony with a mass at the Marija pomagaj Chapel that we erected on this beautiful block of land of our Association when we celebrated 15th anniversary of Slovenia statehood. I am pleased that we started our celebration with a holy mass. Our homeland needs again, just like 23 years ago, our prayer and God's help. We all know that in our beloved homeland not everything is right, including in economy, social welfare, law and diplomacy. 


It is appropriate that we remember every year what our country went through twenty-three years ago; that we revisit this event and pass our awareness onto next generations. For us, this day should be as important as ANZAC Day for Australians. Just as Australians celebrate and respect the fight of their ancestors of almost one hundred years ago, so should our youth know and respect the SLOVENIA STATEHOOD DAY which stands for the fight and causalities that were needed to gain independence. This applies to us and our descendants here in Australia. We are the generation that not only saw the beginning of independence of our country of birth, we also took part in its creation from the very beginning. The Slovenian migrants, including Australian Slovenians, could dream, write and talk about an independent Slovenian state, while it was forbidden and even dangerous to life 
for our fellow Slovenians in our homeland to do the same. Australian Slovenians can confidently and proudly say that we contributed to Slovenia's independence and the final recognition of the new country, Republic of Slovenia, especially by Australia.  

At the time, our aim was not only independence, we also wanted to create a truly democratic country modelled on western countries that are built on centuries old Christian values that are the basis of our European civilisation, culture and human rights.

On 8 May this year, Slovenia also celebrated 25th anniversary of the May Declaration. Representatives of opposition movements signed the May Declaration in Kongresni trg and demanded a sovereign state for the Slovenian nation. This celebration was attended by the President of the Republic of Slovenia Mr Borut Pahor who thanked everyone for making the event back then possible, organising it and showing their courage. The May Declaration was the foundation of all our demands. The new government should be based on three independent pillars - executive, legislative and judiciary. I wish to emphasise the word 'independent'! Whether this is true today is another question.  


Let us first have a look at the Slovenian economy. Slovenia was in the first years of independence at the top as a model country. Today, it is at the bottom in the EU. The unemployment rate has reached 13.4% in April this year; among the unemployed it is mostly young people who can't find work. The country debt has risen from 8 to 28 billion EUR which translates into around 14,000 EUR per citizen. In other words, it has reached 75% of Slovenia GDP. The icons of Slovenian economy are disintegrating. Tycoons who made huge profits hid this 'stolen' money in foreign banks, in so called 'tax havens'. Not to even mention corruption which is reaching a catastrophic level in Slovenia. And who is footing the bill? Our Slovenian people!  


Let us have a look how the Slovenian legal system works. A recent survey shows that the legal system in Slovenia is trusted only by 24% of the population. In the light of the events that took place last Friday, on 20 June 2014, this percentage will probably fall much further. 


Dear friends, very dark clouds are gathering over Slovenia. This day will remain in our national history remembered as the Black Friday - the day when the Slovenian rule of law reached its lowest level. On this day, a great Slovenian; our friend; the most dedicated fighter for independent Slovenia; the first Minister of Defence; a two-time prime minister; a president of the EU; the leader of SDS, the largest opposition party in the Slovenian parliament, Janez Janša was taken to the Dob prison. 


The high court sentenced Janez Janša to two years in prison for accepting a promise of reward from an unknown briber in an unknown place at an unknown time in an unknown manner! 


The charges were built on indicia with no evidence whatsoever. Even though this case was running over four years and Mr Janša was convicted back in April 2014, he was ordered to start serving his sentence only last Friday, at the beginning of a campaign leading to general elections that will take place on 13 July.  


And how is such sentence possible in a democratic country that Slovenia is supposed to be? Many Slovenian, European and other international lawyers are asking the same question: among them three former and current constitutional judges in Slovenia. We are convinced that this sentence will be overturned sooner or later; however, for general elections in July it will be too late. This is another proof that these proceedings have been politically motivated from the beginning. However, this is nothing new, as this kind of things happen to Mr Janez Janša prior to every elections. He has been the archenemy of the transitional left which controls all pillars of power including most media since the first day of independence. Their motto 'First disqualification and then liquidation, even physical if necessary' still applies!

 
Last Friday Mr Janša became a political prisoner for the second time: the first time in 1989 as one of the defendants in the JBTZ trial. At that time he was released after a big public protest attended by 35,000 Slovenians. The sentence was later repealed. The same thing will happen again. This verdict will not hold! It will be overturned! And the prosecutors and judges who are guilty of this shameful judgment will then have to apologise and defend their unjust acts, and so will the Slovenian government. At the end of the day, the truth and justice will prevail! 


Dear fellow Slovenians and friends, I am very sorry that I am so negative in my speech today. To tell you the truth, I am very sad. The fact is that our homeland is in trouble: we need to see the true situation in which Slovenia finds itself today after 23 years of independence. Part of the blame falls also on Slovenian voters who refuse to vote. 'What's the point, they are all the same!' they say. It is a pity that voting is not compulsory like in our democratic Australia. 


Janez Janša was on the way to prison accompanied by around 4000 supporters. And what about us? The question is, can Slovenians in Australia help to improve the situation in our country of birth? I believe that we can. And if you have any ideas or wish to help, come and talk to me, we'll think about this together. 


Our gaining independence 23 years ago and finally having our own country is for the Slovenian nation still the greatest event in our history. Let me thus conclude: My sincere congratulations on 23rd anniversary of independent state of Slovenia!



Thank you!

Winners of Essay and Lego Competitions, 22 June 2014

I AM A SLOVENIAN TOO – TUDI JAZ SEM SLOVENEC/SLOVENKA

WINNERS  - Essays:    

Up to 7
1st prize: Leah Gelt, 7                                  
2nd prize: Sienna Pišotek, 7                             
8-12
1st prize: Alex Pišotek, 10                                  
2nd prize: Evie Johnson, 9                                    
3rd prize: Mia Pišotek, 8                                    
Daniel Bogovič, 8        commendable             
Thomas Scott, 11        encouragement          
13-17
1st prize: Jeremy Ryff, 16                                 
2nd prize: Julia Markič Smith, 13                        
3rd prize: Lucas Hliš, 13                                    
Natasha Žagar, 16       encouragement          
Adult:
1st prize: Zalika Rizmal                                      
2nd prize: Vivien Boosz Falež                            
3rd prize: Andrej Potočnik                                  
Lenti Lenko                 highly commendable  
Rachel Lenko              honourable mention   
Sandra Krnel               commendable             
Frances Ryff                commendable             
Megan Lowe               commendable             
Silvia Žele                   essay in Slovenian language     
Ashleigh Ryff               encouragement          

WINNERS Lego:
            
Up to 7
1st prize: Sabrina Johnson        
2nd prize: Leah Gelt                   
3rd prize: Oscar Krnel                 
Sienna Pišotek            encouragement award
8-12
1st prize: Marcus Katsoulotos (extremely talented, master of the Lego)
2nd prize: Mia Pišotek                
3rd prize: Alex Pišotek                 
Evie Johnson              encouragement award
13-17
1st prize: Jeremy Ryff               
Adult
1st prize: Ashleigh Ryff              
2nd prize: Frances Ryff                
3rd prize: Julija Čampelj              

Thank you to sponsors: Office for Slovenians Abroad, Slovenian Association Melbourne, Slovenian Mission, Kew, HASA web page and Draga Gelt OAM

Thursday, 12 June 2014

General elections in Slovenia on 13 July

In Slovenia, voters will go to the polls to elect a new government on 13 July. The date coincides with the final World Cup soccer match in Brazil but Slovenian politicians are so fond of playing games that this choice quite nicely reflects their realities.

Those of us who are not much interested in politics find the Slovenian political landscape particularly puzzling. There are parties called 'left-wing' and their programs, if they have one, mainly seem to be against capitalism and Janez Janša. On the other side, there is Slovenian Democrat Party that is called 'right-wing' but their program looks closer to Australian Labor Party than Liberals. Like in so many other areas of life, Slovenia seems to have an urge to put its unique spin on everything.

On the right

Slovenian Democrat Party (SDS) stands for better quality of life, more democracy, respect for human rights, economic efficiency, freedom and solidarity. It supports a society of free and active individuals who accept and protect free market while ensuring there is a social safety net that addresses its consequences. SDS is a party of individuals who live from their own work and believe in sound economic practices.

On the right side of the spectrum SDS shares the political arena with Nova Slovenija (NSi)  and Slovenian People's Party (SLS). NSi is a party based on Christian values, its core principles include respect for freedom and human rights, responsibility, nature and sustainable development, justice, achievement, safety, partnership, participation in decision-making and tolerance. SLS, similarly, supports individuals and their freedom, justice, solidarity and tolerance and promotes participation in decision making, protection of public and national interest and cooperation among different interest and generation groups.

On the left 

The political land on the left is defined by Social Democrats (SD), DeSUS and four new parties, among which even the oldest Jankovic's Pozitivna Slovenija is only two and a half years old. Miro Cerar's Party, I Believe and Alliance of Alenka Bratusek have been established only in the last few weeks.

SD joined forces with DeSUS a few days ago with the view of forming a coalition if they win the elections. In their joint statements, both party leaders confirmed that they stand for the protection of the rights of older generations, public health care and public education. Their common aim is to protect people rather than capital and banks.

PS on its website still promotes its program developed for elections in 2011. They stand for investments (of public money) in big infrastructure projects, employee participation in company management and profit sharing, promotion of renewable energy sources, a pension and health-care reform that will ensure safety and promote solidarity. In his speech to WWII veterans on 8 June 2014, its leader Zoran Jankovic  specifically states that it is time for Slovenia to return to the values of 1944 and 1945.

Miro Cerar's Party was established only in the beginning of June. At the time of writing this article their webpage www.mirocerar.si was not responding. In the absence of any other available information on their program, it can be assumed that it basically exists to promote its leader Miro Cerar. Miro Cerar is a lawyer and comes from a distinguished Ljubljana family that counts Milan Kučan among their friends.

Similarly, judging on the basis of their website, the Alliance of Alenka Bratušek doesn't seem to have a program and basically promotes former prime minister of Slovenia Alenka Bratušek. It is a newly founded party.

Igor Šoltes founded party Verjamem only a few days ago. His party too has no tangible program. Even though family ties should not be used as a criterion, it is hard to forget that Igor Šoltes is a grandson of Edvard Kardelj, the main political ideologue in former Yugoslavia.

What the polls predict

According to the latest poll published in daily newspaper Delo on 9 June, voters would distribute their votes in the following way: 
  1. SDS: 13.1%
  2. SD: 6.5%
  3. Desus: 4.5%
  4. NSi: 3.7%
  5. PS: 1.7%
  6. SLS: 1.4%
  7. Other parties: 26.5% (of which Delo claims that Miro Cerar's Party would receive almost 17%)
  8. None: 5.3%