Melbourne forum hears Croatian case


By Dave Holmes

MELBOURNE — A well-attended meeting on November 21 heard a panel of speakers forcefully argue the case for supporting Croatia's struggle for independence. The forum at the Celtic Club registered a growing support in the progressive movement and the wider Australian community for the cause of Croatia.

Zdenko Cosic, a Croatian deputy in the Bosnian parliament, was able to report on developments in his republic, largely ignored in the mainstream media. More than one-third of Bosnia is today controlled by forces loyal to Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. In these areas, Croats and Muslims have lost all rights. The absence of fighting in the region is deceptive: once the non-Serbian population demands an end to its oppression, it will get the same treatment as Croatia.

Croatian feminist Kathy Brozovic took up the background to the current struggle. She presented a clear analysis of the wartime experience, a chapter of history which has confused many sections of the Australian left and led them to adopt stereotyped, even racist, views of the Croatian people and their national aspirations.

Also speaking was Michael Rafferty, lawyer for the "Croatian Six", wrongfully imprisoned in the 1980s for terrorism, and now vindicated by the recent Four Corners expose. Rafferty called for an end to the distorted, stereotyped view of Croatians held by many Australians.

The gathering was then addressed by Andrew Theophanous, Federal Labor MP for Calwell. He is also chairperson of the cross-party group, Parliamentarians for Croatia and Slovenia. Theophanous was critical of the hypocrisy of the west, particularly the United States.

The final speaker was Tomislav Bosnjak, secretary of the Croatian National Congress. He made an eloquent appeal to Australians to understand the Croatian community, its historical development in this country and its aspirations for Croatia. Previously confined by widespread prejudice and cultural isolation to a kind of "psychological ghetto", today a new generation of Australian Croatians is emerging, better educated and much more confident.

The meeting backed a call to establish a group in solidarity with Croatia. For further information, contact Kathy Brozovic on (03) 380 9126 or Mirela Uljar on 387 2292.

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