On Wednesday’s rally to pay tribute to the father of the Slovenian state, Dr Jože Pučnik, who died twenty years ago, the President of the largest opposition party – the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS), Janez Janša, said that Pučnik belongs to the very centre of Slovenia – symbolically and literally. “When Dr Pučnik formally entered Slovenian politics at that pivotal time, Drago Jančar wrote the words about him that we all know by now and that have practically become part of Slovenian folklore. We know Dr Pučnik by his phrase: ‘Yugoslavia is no more. Now, it is about Slovenia!’ However, the most famous sentence that most directly describes the character and personality of Dr Pučnik is Jančar’s. He wrote, ‘Jože Pučnik is all about the cause,’” Janša reminded those gathered at the square.
Janez Janša then went on to say that, although lots of people are all about the cause, very few actually dare to realise their wishes. “Jože Pučnik was about the cause, and he was brave enough to fight for this cause even when the times were deaf for such ideas, when he was punished for them and when his life and the life of his family were practically destroyed because of it. We know very little about what they had to endure,” he pointed out.
They did not allow for Pučnik to be buried with military honours
Janša said that although Pučnik was the father of the Slovenian state, they had not been able to get him buried with military honours. “The government of the time did not allow it. It was with great agony that we at least managed to organise a mourning session because he was a Member of Parliament, and there could be no excuses. And even that was done against the wishes of the then-Rop government because the Speaker of the National Assembly was a bit more democratic.” He recalled that at that time, one of the MPs of the then-ruling Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) party said, “Well, you can have this circus today, but in 20 years, no one will know who Dr Jože Pučnik was anymore.” But today, 20 years later, according to Janša, we all know who Dr Pučnik was, but many people no longer know what the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia was.
Janša went on to say that he had compared his speech with the one he gave on the first anniversary of Pučnik’s death and had found that, unfortunately, many things were still the same. “There are many things that drove Dr Pučnik to go abroad for the second time in the time of an independent Slovenia, in the time of a country that is, to a large extent, also the result of his sacrifice and his efforts. This time, not forcibly and practically without anything in his pockets, but out of disappointment, because those dreams that we were looking forward to, when his historic words for Slovenia were spoken, were simply receding further into the future with every passing year.” In any case, much of what Pučnik spoke and wrote about has come true, according to Janša, despite great difficulties, despite all of the obstacles thrown his way. After all, his memory, too, has been given appropriate commemorations at a time when we could make important decisions, Janša said, as the central airport is named after Pučnik, and many squares and streets in municipalities and towns are named after him, too. “My sincere thanks to the mayors who decided to do this,” he said.
But some things are even more absurd today than they were on the first anniversary of Pučnik’s death. “Today, we have a government that has decided to bury the former head of the State Security Administration of the former Yugoslavia with military honours. A representative of a regime that denied Dr Pučnik and thousands of others the right to dignity, to live freely, that fundamentally violated human rights,” he was critical, adding that today, we also have a government that is the only one in the world that is protesting against itself. “We wish it great success in this endeavour.”
Janša recalled that when they said goodbye to Dr Pučnik in the cold days of January 20 years ago, members of the Slovenian Democratic Party made a promise to do everything to preserve his memory and save it from oblivion. Something that did not materialise was that one of Ljubljana’s central squares should bear his name. “I believe that the time will come when we will make this a reality. After all, we fought for 20 years for the Slovenian flag to fly at Ljubljana Castle. Thank you, Dr Pučnik, for the fact that, despite all the difficulties, we have an independent and sovereign country and that those gathered at the rally are aware that this is Slovenia,” Janša concluded.
“I am delighted to have had the opportunity to work with Dr Pučnik. I knew his story, his critical spirit, which did not break before the judges, not in solitary confinement, not in exile or anywhere else. Because this man had a strong will and a clear vision, because he did not think only of himself, but thought of the whole, of the future of all, and did not take the future in an ideological way, we trusted him to lead the state-building enterprise of the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia – DEMOS, which won the first democratic elections after the Second World War with the idea of an independent Slovenia,” recalled Lojze Peterle, President of the Association for Values of Slovenian Independence (VSO).
According to Peterle, Dr Pučnik led DEMOS as a democrat, patriot and visionary. All six parties that participated in DEMOS had an equal opportunity to express themselves and represent their interests. “He was the unique leader of DEMOS and did not care about his status, let alone his own interests. He worked for what would help us all to move forward. The famous words we heard today are worth remembering: ‘Three Yugoslavias are gone, but Slovenia goes on. Slovenia’s democratic transformation project is not finished. He himself was aware of this all along,” he stressed, adding that it is essential to foster the idea that Slovenia is still at stake and to help complete Slovenia’s unfinished democratic transformation, thus helping to bring Slovenia back to the atmosphere in which a free country was created.