By: Domen Mezeg (Nova24tv)
“Leave! You deal with small animals, your partners and their fashion, the crickets, if you like; the nonsense and the erecting of statues to the Erased, while at the same time, you have still not realised that the pensioners have been the only and truly erased citizens for years and years! And we are actually erased, we have never speculated with anything, never done any calculations about whether to be Slovenian citizens or not, never, but we have built, toiled and worked! These people are the only ones entitled to have the biggest monument in the country erected to them! A monument of glory and honour and gratitude because these are the people who built our country, fought for it, paid for it and who respect it! I therefore call on you once again: resign and call new elections! Dear Mr Golob, it’s time to leave!” Rupar, the leader of the pensioners’ protest, told Golob and the rest of the ruling coalition.
On Friday, the 31st of March, a general anti-government protest was held under the slogan: “Fly, Robi, fly!” starting at 3 p.m. at Republic Square in Ljubljana. Pavle Rupar called on people to join it, who is the initiator of the Voice of Pensioners initiative and founder of the 1st of October Institute. All protest groups were invited because, as he wrote on Facebook, they are all following in the footsteps of today’s pensioners. The aim of the protest was to draw attention to the injustices that afflict pensioners. Everyone was invited to attend the event: the pensioners, their sons, daughters, grandchildren, granddaughters, and young people, i.e. all those who want a different Slovenia, and party affiliation and religious beliefs do not play any role here. According to the media outlet Celjski glasnik, Rupar was extremely critical of a recent statement by the President of the Republic, Nataša Pirc Musar, with which she insulted pensioners – Rupar said that “it is a complete disgrace.” He was most angered by the claim that the pensioners are supposedly being used to score political points. And it was precisely because of the President’s disgraceful statement that on Friday, the pensioners were even more determined to come together in as large numbers as possible to show their disapproval of the Robert Golob government’s ignorant policy towards this vulnerable group. Rupar believes that the current government has completely lost its compass and that neither the Prime Minister nor the President of the Republic have any idea of how people live today, which is why such statements are extremely humiliating.
We can agree with Rupar, because very few pensioners can afford the luxuries afforded by the President and the electro-oligarch. The fact that Pirc Musar does not care about the most vulnerable was also recently experienced first-hand by Elena Pečarič, a well-known disabled person, who publicly pointed this out in her article, and it is really worth reading! It is clear from Pirc Musar’s statement that she has sided with the stronger side, and that she is afraid of an even greater loss of the reputation of the Golob government. She has attached a political label to the event, thereby trying to diminish its significance in advance, to divert attention from its real message. At the same time, it shows a fear of the awakening power of a real civil society, which is not just an extended extension of the ruling coalition (unlike Nika Kovač, Tea Jarc, Jaša Jenull and Filip Muki Dobranić). Friday’s pensioners’ protest started with a folk-music welcome. Once again, a sea of Slovenian flags flew at the event, which also showed the patriotic note of the event and the participants, who care about the future of the country and the nation, in contrast to the Yugonostalgic government coalition. After gathering in the square, the participants of the rally marched through the city – towards Congress Square and Bavarski dvor. The march was accompanied by shouts, whistles, rattling, horns and the ringing of cowbells. One of the participants remarked meaningfully, “There are f***ing very few of us!”
Someone else shouted, “Thieves, cheats!” They continued past the Ilirija swimming pool and near Tivoli. During the march, the song “There are only a million of us left” was sung. The march concluded at Republic Square, where Rupar gave the opening remarks. “And all of you in front of your TV screens, welcome to the third nationwide rally against the macho actions of the authorities towards us citizens, especially towards us pensioners!” said Rupar initially. He also extended a special greeting to our compatriots, Slovenians abroad and all our “heartfelt brothers and sisters all over the world who morally help us and stand by us!” Like every rally, they also began this one with good wishes and a silent Our Father prayer for all cancer patients and for all those in hospitals, the elderly in nursing homes, the lonely and the suffering, telling them to “hope and hold on, because they are with them!” Afterwards, the participants placed their hands on their hearts and sang the national anthem to their homeland Slovenia.
“I call on my colleagues to fight for higher wages so that they can have at least some satisfaction in their old age!”
One of the speakers went on to recall the hardships of nurses, remembering their sacrifice for patients and their “noble hearts”. She also read out a letter from one of the retired nurses: “I myself, after 42 years of work, receive a little more than the minimum pension for full-time work. You cannot imagine the situations I have encountered, the hours working with patients in the ambulance, all the tragedies, in the field and in the healthcare centre. Sometimes, after work, I hardly knew where home was…” Today, she still helps patients if they need help because there are too few doctors and nurses. She is happy to help, and it is never difficult for her to come to the aid because she knows that patients need her. She also pointed out that medical staff are shamefully underpaid and that pensions are consequently very low. She therefore called on her colleagues to fight for higher salaries so that they can have at least some satisfaction in their old age, so that there is at least some satisfaction for having saved people’s health and lives. She also said that she was delighted to see the creation of the Voice of Pensioners initiative and the 1st of October Institute.
Rupar also said: “Once again, I salute all of you who are fed up with the promises and the talk and the ridicule of the ruling clique, after ten months of its rule! We invited Prime Minister Robert Golob, Minister Luka Mesec, singer and boxer Urška Klakočar Zupančič, the President of the State, Queen Nataša Pirc Musar, to today’s rally, but we did not invite the new Health Minister Jaša Jenull and Nika Kovač – for my own safety! I am happy because, according to the latest data, there are 34 thousand of us here today! But at the same time, I am also very disappointed about the events related to pensioners. In the month since the second rally, there have been too many negative and shocking events that will further burden and paralyse the lives of pensioners, which we will resist in every possible way!” The first measure, which Rupar believes will be by far the best for both the people and Slovenia, is to call on Dr Golob to resign.
“Golob & Co. should look for money in their safes, millions and accumulated wealth, and leave the poor alone!”
Rupar went on to remind us that we are sliding at great speed towards the bankruptcy of the country, which has opened the eyes of “a great mass of people who realise that the rulers are dancing their own kind of circle dance, while the people are still being paid very poorly and get meagre pensions, because the orchestra is obviously spending too much on its own party! Today, you received your pensions, with 5.2 percent less than in February. Dr Golob’s pompous photo-op with Jan Sušnik, announcing an extraordinary adjustment of 4.5 percent, has apparently become tomorrow’s April Fool’s Day joke. It is time to tell them to hold their horses and look for solutions where they can actually find them.” Rupar went on to urge those in power that if there is a real shortage of money, they should look for it in their safes, millions, and accumulated wealth, and leave the poor alone, because they will not bear, much less allow, the extra burden. If the rulers had the knowledge and wisdom, he said, they could easily have stopped the rampant corruption, and introduced audits and controls on the use of money by state institutions to fill the state budget.
Rupar recalled that they had announced they would be working with “outstanding experts in the governance of the country,” but they had appointed people who had lost the elections and their own relatives and friends. The billions they have “shovelled into their own businesses during their ten months of rule means that they are clearly only looking out for themselves and the political elite that governs us.” Higher pensions would also result, he said, from control of the Pension and Disability Insurance Institute, which is headed by Marjan Papež, who has been positioned there for longer than Slovenia has been independent. According to Rupar, tens and hundreds of millions are spent on contracts, IT, leases … “Their real estate fund is out of control! I am strongly announcing that the 1st of October Institute demands an immediate audit by the Court of Audits!” The people who should be negotiating for higher pensions are a group of incompetent people who declare themselves “representative and the only salvation, and who are literally loved by the current government and rulers!”
“Klakočar Zupančič is bothered by commas and exclamation marks in the proposed law for a 20-percent increase in pensions!”
“We demand to be included in the negotiations as interlocutors of the pension reform, and Sušnik should be removed immediately!” Rupar called on all members of pensioners’ associations to consider whether “one New Year’s Eve dinner is really enough for their support and membership, while at the same time, their President is not even able to fight for pensions. If he were fighting for pensioners, he would have supported the bill we tabled at the previous rally for a 20 percent increase in pensions and would have supported us irrevocably and unconditionally, but he didn’t!” Rupar informed the audience that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Klakočar Zupančič, has consistently rejected the tabled law, saying that amendments are needed, that sentences should include both genders, that commas and exclamation marks are missing, which is completely irrelevant to the process of collecting signatures. Last week, their application was rejected for the second time, with the same nonsensical explanations, only this time it was signed by the Left party (Levica) MP Nataša Sukić. Rupar: “We can only guess why this is happening for the first time in the history of Slovenia because no applicant has ever experienced anything like this before!”
Rupar then wondered whether they were stalling because of the lack of money for pensions, or whether they were making fun of pensioners, or whether they were waiting for the abolition of the administrative units and thus making it more difficult for pensioners to access the administrative units. Rupar: “Regarding the submitted law on the increase of pensions, I promise you again, and I swear that we will insist on our demands! Please do not give up, continue to support us, because their goal is to tame us! We have elected people who are so stupefied by the power that they do not understand the people’s plight.” They have erected obstacles and deepened the division in a nation that is “no longer measured in the number of voters, but in the rich and the poor!” Rupar also pointed out that the government is announcing other drastic and senseless measures, all of them to the detriment of pensioners. He cited the increase in the price of supplementary health insurance, the reduction of compulsory medical examinations for drivers from 80 to 70 years, new taxes, taxes on low pensions, and taxes on property. “Who knows what else they have in their heads?! These people have completely lost their compass, the crisis is visible from space!”
Rupar to President Pirc Musar: “We urge you, Madam President, do not degrade this crowd!”
Rupar went on to remind those gathered at the protest that Papež and Mesec are also announcing a rise in the retirement age and in the length of service limit, which will affect currently employed workers. The government is “sneakily” promising pay rises, while the trade unions are being fooled. “In short, we are wrong to put an end to this as soon as possible!” Ten months on, he said, we have seen absolutely nothing more than promises and nice words. At the same time, the rulers tolerate extreme insults and the intensification of hate speech. He also recalled the uncritical attitude of the mainstream media towards Golob’s mistakes. They remain uncritical and servile towards the government because it pays them. “The authorities do not respond to our petitions, they do not answer our letters and requests, as if you do not exist, as if they actually think that you are not worthy of their attention and that they should talk to us. And in this, the rulers are exactly the same: Golob, Klakočar Zupančič, Mesec and Sušnik. All the same! But be warned: I am all too disappointed with the barely elected President of the country, Pirc Musar, supposedly called the “Queen of the Nation”.”
She did not say a word in response to the letter in which she was kindly and nicely asked if at least she could stand up for their Voice of Pensioners initiative, and to speak out critically against the hate speech of the journalists Janez Markeš and Sušnik, who labelled the protesters “fascists and Nazis” and the chairman of the People’s Initiative as “Hitler and Mussolini”! Rupar: “Nataša Pirc Musar, you are a woman, you are a mother, you are the President, and your attitude towards us is not worthy of respect! Madam Queen, on Tuesday, you invited to your palace the very people who for years and years have been blocking the payment of fair pensions – Mesec, Sušnik, Papež and a certain union president, Francka Četković.” The conclusion of those present was that the situation of pensioners is really bad. Rupar: “We appeal to you, Madam President, not to degrade this crowd and not to decide who can and who cannot come to see you!” Rupar also urged Pirc Misar not to humiliate pensioners with nonsense about “pensioners for protest and political purposes! Perhaps this is something you and the current Prime Minister used to do. Our memory has not left us.”
“We are not being influenced by any party! We are only held together by hardship, struggle, and the proud Slovenian heart!”
“We are telling you that we are not being influenced by any party, we refuse to be divided into left and right, which you and the ruling party are all too used to! We are only held together by hardship, struggle, and the proud Slovenian heart!” As he added, the gathered crowd, bigger than any we have seen after the plebiscite, is giving him hope. The announced reforms, which will also additionally tax the lowest pensions, pensioners’ assets and increase the working period of employees and raise the age limit for retiring, as rulers want to destroy pensioners, just like the farmers and the countryside, and the pension reform announced by Mesec and Papež, will not “turn out according to their dreams! Your humiliations will not bear fruit! Our protests, not just by pensioners but by increasingly disillusioned groups, will only intensify!” He also thanked Slovenian farmers for their support. He also called on the public administration, the education sector, entrepreneurs and workers to stand together, and on government officials to leave as soon as possible, because they are only working for their own benefit and, above all, have been destroying pensioners and workers for decades.
They are destroying the Slovenian economy, businesses, and employees. “Leave! You deal with small animals, your partners and their fashion, the crickets, if you like; the nonsense and the erecting of statues to the Erased, while at the same time, you have still not realised that the pensioners have been the only and truly erased citizens for years and years! And we are actually erased, we have never speculated with anything, never done any calculations about whether to be Slovenian citizens or not, never, but we have built, toiled and worked! These people are the only ones entitled to have the biggest monument in the country erected to them! A monument of glory and honour and gratitude because these are the people who built our country, fought for it, paid for it and who respect it! I therefore call on you once again: resign and call new elections!” Rupar also pointed out that the Long-Term Care Act was easily destroyed by the rulers, and now nobody is dealing with it anymore. The same happened with the Income Tax Act, stealing at least one salary a year from workers. “Dear Mr Golob, it’s time to fly away! Let’s remain rebellious to what is happening, let’s remain Slovenians!” They will keep organising rallies until the demands are implemented. The pensioners are demanding a 750-euro pension for all those with full service. To conclude the rally, they sang “The Beekeeper” together.