Opposition benches in parliament on Wednesday called for the resignation of Veterans' Affairs Minister Mijo Crnoja following media reports that he allegedly falsely registered his address to be in Samobor, a town some 20 kilometres west of Zagreb, whereas he actually lives in Zagreb, and that on several occasions he was reported for physical violence.
Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Franko Vidovic announced that the SDP parliamentary group would ask parliament to withhold its support to Minister Crnoja who was appointed to that office just five days ago.
Vidovic underscored that his party does not dispute Crnoja's participation in the Homeland War for which it is grateful. The SDP considers that events that happened after 1999 are contentious, including Crnoja's entering into a fight with two bus drivers, which he has admitted.
After that incident, the police could not serve Crnoja with a summons to the court hearing because it became obvious that he did not reside at the address he was registered to, Vidovic explained.
Vidovic further criticised Crnoja for the alleged "abuse of a widow, who by the way is disabled and a single parent with a disabled child." "That case is still being dealt with by a court, and the third case concerns land granted (to Crnoja) in Samobor pursuant to the veterans' benefits law, which is related to municipal tax fraud because the minister obviously does not live there. Municipal tax in Samobor is zero whereas in Zagreb, where he does live, municipal tax is 18%," Vidovic said.
Vidovic also wondered if the housing loan Crnoja was given to build a house on the land granted in Samobor had been expended for that purpose or not at all. "Why has Crnoja not consumed his right to this day to the loan of 56,000 euro granted pursuant to the veterans' benefits law and why has he not built a house on that land which he was obliged to do within three years of the grant," Vidovic asked.
Vidovic claims that Crnoja has not answered any of these questions. "That is the image of the government, five days later. The homeland is defended by arms when that is necessary, in war. In peacetime it is defended with respect of the Constitution and law, paying taxes and levies, helping people in difficulty. The minister has acted to the contrary and is now trying to cover that up with legal catches and to prove something that cannot be proven," he said.
Vidovic also criticised Crnoja for his idea to publish a register of traitors of national interests. "Citizens have already spoken their mind about that idea as something absolutely absurd. For all these reasons, a minister who has sparked fear in society with his statements, who is not transparent, who is burdened just one day after stepping into office with several scandals that he has not cleared up, even though he was given the opportunity, has to go," Vidovic said.
Croatian People's Party (HNS) MP Nada Turina Djuric, too, is convinced that Crnoja has to go due to all the information and documents released in the media and that it is up to the prime minister to ask Crnoja to step down.
The leader of the Labour Party, MP Nansi Tireli, said that generalisations about the government should not be made based on the actions of one minister.
She is convinced that Croatian veterans are offended by the "knowledge that their minister acted contrary to the law, exploited benefits, was given money and did not use it for its proper purpose."
Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) MP Josip Djakic accused the opposition of serving circumstantial indications even though the minister had produced documents according to which he was required to register his address in Samobor in order to be able to build a house on the land granted to him. Djakic is convinced that the opposition's lambasting of Crnoja is a reaction to his intention to publish the traitors' register.
"The Patriotic Coalition and those who support it will certainly discuss this but that (the register) has sparked the most tension and led to a witch-hunt to add to lambasting Crnoja based on circumstantial indications," Djakic said.
"Today, when the hardships faced by veterans should be discussed, you are defaming and persecuting a man who was prepared to sacrifice his life in the war. Take the documents in your hands, the rulings and documents and don't talk about circumstantial indications," Djakic said.