Ivan Oman, Key Figure in Slovenia’s Independence, Dies at 89

By , 18 Aug 2019, 20:00 PM Politics
Ivan Oman in 2016 Ivan Oman in 2016 YouTube screenshot

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STA, 18 August 2019 - Ivan Oman, one of the key players of Slovenia's independence has died aged 89. In the late 1980s he played an important role in the establishment of DEMOS, a coalition of newly-emerged centre-right parties that won the first multi-party election in Slovenia and paved the way for its breakaway from the former Yugoslavia.

The news was announced on Sunday by the People's Party (SLS), whose predecessor, the Slovenian Farmers' Association (SKZ), Oman co-founded in the late 1980s and also served as its first president.

In 1990, he became a member of the Slovenian presidency and in 1992 he became an MP in the first National Assembly of independent Slovenia.

The father of seven was born on 10 September 1929. Himself a farmer, Oman was a "great fighter for the rights of farmers and a charismatic leader. May his soul rest with God," the SLS said in a press release.

He was a part of all the key events that led to Slovenia's independence. In November 1989, he hosted at his home in the village of Zminec, southwest of Škofja Loka, the meeting that resulted in the establishment of Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS).

He became the vice-president of DEMOS and, when in January 1990 the parties presented their manifesto, he said "We're running to win!" a bold statement many Slovenians still remember vividly nearly three decades later.

After DEMOS did indeed win the election, Oman became a member of the presidency of what was then the Socialist Republic of Slovenia alongside Ciril Zlobec, Matjaž Kmecl, Dušan Plut and Milan Kučan.

In the mean time, the Farmers' Association was renamed Slovenian People's Party (SLS) and Oman handed its leadership to his son-in-law Marjan Podobnik in 1992.

Oman wanted to see the party merge with the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SKD), but this had not happened. He then swapped parties, and was elected a member of parliament in 1992 on SKD's slate.

He retired from active politics after the end of his term but has remained an important presence in Slovenia's politics.

In 1996, he was honoured with the Golden Order of Freedom of the Republic of Slovenia for his exceptional contribution to Slovenia's independence.

Top officials express condolences following Oman's death

STA, 18 August 2019 - Top state officials have expressed their condolences after the death of Ivan Oman, one of the key people in Slovenia's fight for independence. President Borut Pahor said Oman was one of the fathers of the Slovenian state, while Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenians would always remain grateful to him. Oman died on Saturday, aged 89.

"The entire Slovenian world mourns today. Ivan Oman was one of the key personas of Slovenia's political spring and independence, one of the fathers of our country," the president tweeted, describing Oman as a wise and determined leader with an open and gentle heart.

Šarec described Oman as a great patriot. "We will always remember him and always be grateful to him," the prime minister tweeted. Similarly, parliament Speaker Dejan Židan said that Slovenia had lost a wise man.

Židan's party, the Social Democrats (SD), whose predecessor was one of the main rivals of Oman's Farmers' Association, now the People's Party, said that Oman's efforts for an independent state and his unifying actions will for ever remain a part of Slovenia's history.

Gratitude to Oman was also expressed by the Democratic Party (SDS), the successor of one of the parties that formed the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS), which won the first multi-party election, paving the way to Slovenia's independence in the early 1990s.

The party said on its website that Oman "fought for the liberation from under the Communist regime with a strong will and courageous words".

When he became a member of presidency of what was then the Socialist Republic of Slovenia in 1990, Oman was the only presidency member who supported the establishment of the Slovenian military and refused to sign the 1991 Declaration for Peace, an initiative for constitutional changes aiming at stopping progressive armament in Slovenia, as well as Yugoslavia.

"When Milan Kučan and other members of the presidency were disarming our country, he bravely addressed the members of the Territorial Defence after military exercise Premiki91: Greeted, soldiers of the Slovenian military," the SDS said, referring to the then presidency president, who went on to become the first president of independent Slovenia.

This role by Oman was also underlined by SDS president Janey Janša, another major player in Slovenia's independence.

Kučan on the other hand also gave a statement for the STA, praising Oman for being a man of dialogue, who contributed that the presidency had made unanimous decisions that were of vital importance for successful establishment of an independent state. "I am proud of the time I worked with him."

"Oman was a wise man and a sober politician. He put the interest of the Slovenian nation and state at the forefront of his actions as a politician. He was also capable of putting party interests second," Kučan said.

Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore tweeted that Oman was a "loving father, a vigilant protector of his family, an upstanding Christian, a consistent patriot and a wise politician... And always a farmer who constantly thinks about ways to further his estate."

Expressions of condolence also came from National Council President Alojz Kovšca and the president of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) Foreign Minister Miro Cerar.

Moreover, New Slovenia (NSi) president Matej Tonin tweeted that Oman "was an exceptional man. When it was time to act, he did not hesitate. When time called for clear thoughts, he knew no fear. He carried the homeland in his heart and the homeland will always be grateful."

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