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3.21.2012

Hunger strike for Catalan in Majorca

On March 1st, a respected retired teacher of Catalan began a hunger strike in Palma de Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Spain; see, for instance, the article by a leading Majorcan academic, Gabriel Bibiloni, “El govern balear vol destruir la bona convivència i la pervivència de la identitat del país” / “The Balearic government wants to destroy coexistence and the survival of the country’s identityhttp://www.vilaweb.cat/opinio_contundent/3995353/gabriel-bibiloni-govern-balear-vol-destruir-bona-convivencia-pervivencia-identitat-pais.html; this article has been quoted or reproduced on 367 websites and blogs within three days of being published). Senyor Jaume BONET-MOLL's hunger strike, which he started on behalf of Jubilats per Mallorca (Pensioners for Majorca), is in protest against the measures announced by the Government of the Balearic Islands (Spain) which would greatly restrict the effective compliance of international instruments adopted by the Government of Spain, such as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, as regards the Catalan language, which has been the language of these islands since they were taken from the Moors in the 13th century. 

These measures include changing current legislation so as to retain only one of the two official languages (Spanish) as a requirement for regional civil service candidates. Knowing Catalan would become just a "merit" (see, for example, http://www.diariodemallorca.es/mallorca/2011/12/27/ley-quitara-catalan-requisito-informacion-publica/731385.html).

Senyor Bonet-Moll is a member of the board of Jubilats per Mallorca. Their website is http://jubilats.balearweb.net.

His condition is weakening (he has lost 20 kilos - 44 lb - and has a heart complaint), so visiting hours have been restricted.

There are filmed and written filmed interviews with him here: http://www.vilaweb.cat/noticia/3994799/20120315/jaume-bonet-vaga-fam-llengua-seria-fotut-deixar-morir-sense-dir-res.html 
and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vrsK6LhlLE

Given that the only reaction we have read, from government circles, is by an MP, Sra. Ana María Aguiló, who was cynical and disdainful ("Prefiero ir a visitar a personas que de verdad no pueden comer y ayudarles en lo que pueda" / "I prefer to go and visit people who are really cannot eat, and do what I can to help them",  https://twitter.com/AnaMariaAguilo/status/180803252814753795), I fear that his plight is falling on deaf ears and his health will be in great danger unless someone acts as an intermediary.



The Majorcans are easy-going, cheerful people. That Jaume Bonet has taken this step is a good indicator of how serious the language policy situation is since the Spanish PP won the regional election in the Balearic Islands last spring from a leftist coalition which was supportive of the local language (as Mr. Sogor know full well, Catalan) and culture. They have cut back, closed down or removed grants for cultural organisations, Catalan-language periodicals, language services, a Catalan-language TV channel; they promised changes in the education system which will mean less Catalan being taught and will threaten the aim that all schoolchildren should end their compulsory schooling with a good command of both official languages. 

The planned changes to the Civil Service Act (which Bonet claims will also change legislation adopted unanimously in 1986) curtailing Catalan language speakers' rights was NOT an election promise. Their manifesto (significantly, with a Catalan title, but the hyperlink is to a Spanish text!) can be downloaded here: http://www.ppbalears.es/upload/file_aj28_02_12_11_23_27.pdf


What they did promise in their manifesto was to remove the requirement that professionals wishing to work in the public health service in the Balearic Islands have a command of both official languages. Spanish was still to be obligatory, but not Catalan. This arose out of a corporativistic reaction by doctors and nurses (demonstrations in the street included), after the former government announced in-service language requirements, following a more-than-ample transition period. We are talking here about two Romance languages. Learning one when you know the other, before taking a civil service examination, is not an unsurmountable task! 

The Spanish People's Party knows that by preaching "freedom" it can more easily impose Spanish throughout the traditionally non-Spanish-speaking parts of the country. What this will do is make it harder for citizens to have their right to use Catalan respected, in dealings with the authorities. Having people working inside the public administration who do not know Catalan will be both inefficient and will make the generalised use of Spanish more likely. This sentence will make a lot of sense here: "Entre le fort et le faible, entre le riche et le pauvre, entre le maître et le serviteur, c'est la liberté qui opprime, c'est la loi qui affranchit" (45me conférence de Notre-Dame, Henri Lacordaire (1802-1861).

All in all, the PP in the Balearic Islands has a language policy that will reverse much of what has been won, step by step (inertias are of course very, very hard to overcome), for the Catalan language in the islands since democracy returned over 30 years ago. 




A recent poll by IBES claims to show that 64% of the population support the government's language policy, though a quarter of their own voters are against it). "Uno de cada cuatro votantes del PP está en contra de la política lingüística de Bauzá. El 64 por ciento de la población de las Islas aprueba los cambios en materia de lengua anunciados por el Govern" (Última Hora, 17/3/2012): 

http://ultimahora.es/mallorca/noticia/noticias/local/uno-de-cada-cuatro-votantes-del-pp-esta-en-contra-de-la-politica-linguistica-de-bauza.html


English-language press covering the hunger strike include the Majorca Daily Bulletin: 


"Opposition furious as government plans to “down grade” Catalan": http://www.majorcadailybulletin.es/first.dba?3686+1+30618 


"Hunger striker ends second week to save Catalan":  http://www.majorcadailybulletin.es/first.dba?3684+1+30597

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