By Rafaela Prifti/
The open voting at Vatra Convention in Michigan resulted in Valentin Lumaj as Committee Chairman, Nazo Veliu and Ervin Dine as co-chairs. We asked them for an assessment of the assembly. Here is what they had to say.
Valentin Lumaj, member of Vatra Branch of Michigan, a team member of the Convention Preparatory Task Force, said that “we were well-prepared ahead of time. We had a great help from the Bektashian Teke with Dervish Elidon Pashaj, Our Lady of Albanians’ Church with Dom Ndue Gjergji, and Wingate hotel owner as well as Vatra member Menyr Nazifi.” He appreciated his role at the Convention and the outcome. “I was honored to be elected to run this Convention. I’m also happy with all the decisions made by this Convention, especially with the “self-cleaning” process Vatra went through,” said Mr. Lumaj. Asked if this was the first time that Vatra Convention to be held in Michigan, Mr. Lumaj said: “In my belief, two other Conventions were held here in the past. Regardless, it was a wise decision to choose Michigan, considering the aggravated situation within Vatra during the past couple of years. We were confident we could handle it successfully and we did it.” Making a point about funding, Lumaj said “We were appointed to organize this Convention but not funded, still, made sure that everything go in place nicely. It was a big responsibility to accommodate over 100 delegates and guests. Delegates paid for some of the expenses while Michigan branch covered the rest. Credits go to each one of us. We all contributed different ways to conclude this Convention with success. After all, that’s all that matters.”
As far as expectations in moving forward, he said: “After this Convention, Vatra stands solid, united and pure, and its road ahead to serve our Nation is clear. Now, it’s the new leadership’s turn, to take over the unfinished work and our job is to obey the new leadership for the next two years.”
Ervin Dine, two-year member of Vatra, who, as part of the Preparatory Task Force, was in charge of drafting the Convention program, thanked the Vatra members of Michigan “for a well-planned convention and their true Albanian style hospitality.” He underlined that there was a lot of preparation ahead of the convention, while there “Mr. Valentin Lumaj did an excellent job in managing the first part. When the candidates presented their cases, people were talking out of turn but I believe we managed to get it back on track.” In reference to evaluating the work of Convention Chairs, Ervin Dine said: “I think that is a better question for the delegates, however I believe Ms. Nazo Veliu and Mr. Valentin Lumaj did a nice job of keeping everything on target as planned and I would give them both an A. For myself, I would probably grade it a B-. Just like everything else, there is always room to do better and things we can take to the next convention. I believe that as an organization we need to do better at staying on task and on subject. In addressing the take-away points from the Michigan Convention 2020, he said: “The planning and the organization was well done, however in order for everything to go smoothly, we, as delegates need to be prepared to respect the rules set forth by the president of the Convention. We also need to be cognizant of the fact that these conventions should not be used as platforms for personal complaints. We have these once a year and need to use the time wisely to plan and decide for the next year. Delegates need to stay on subject and I would suggest letting them know ahead of time what the tasks are for that particular convention. I think this would give them the opportunity to study the issues ahead of time and we can carry on with wiser time friendly debates.”
Nazo Veliu, Secretary, and team member of the Preparatory Committee, elaborated on the tasks of this body led by Mr. Agim Rexhaj, who was also Deputy Chairman of the Pan-Albanian Federation of America – Vatra – up to the opening of the Convention on January 19, 2020. “As Vatra’s Secretary, I was part of the Task Group. Right at the start, a working agenda was put in place in order to ensure that required items and necessary points were addressed in paving the way to the Convention in compliance with Vatra’s Constitution. The decisions of the Preparatory Committee included: receiving proof of membership, verifying credentials, contacting the delegates, updating the database with the lists of names received from the Headquarters and the branches, and confirming the delegates selected from each body whereby they are registered as members of Vatra, in accordance with the Constitution and amendments directing that one delegate represents 10 members, thus ensuring a good turnout and democratic representation of the Federation structure, where each has signed up as a member. The Committee resolved issues pertaining to the ‘proxy vote’ as a form of voting whereby a member of a decision-making body, unable to attend the Convention, delegates the voting power to a representative. It was the unanimous decision of the Committee that each delegate might be entitled to one proxy vote, pending a written request by the party, stating that he or she is unable to participate and authorizing the member to vote on his or her behalf. The ballots were prepared for the Convention to be held on January 19, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. The Committee stayed in communication with all the registered branch, in particular Vatra Michigan Branch, the host of the event. All members have received information about the preparatory work of the Committee through Dielli.”
In response to the question of evaluating the execution of the duties by the Chairs and assessing the Convention in general, Secretary Nazo Veliu emphasized that “the preparation efforts were made in advance in the name of transparency and compliance with Vatra Constitution. It is worth-noticing that the venue itself, the Bektashi Tekke, is a reminder of a feature that Albanians have demonstrated and are rightly proud of, namely religious co-existence. That same spirit of unity prevailed during the Convention fueled by the determination to follow the path of the giants and coryphaeus of Vatra and indeed our nation, Noli and Konica. The Convention Chairman Valentin Lumaj conducted the agenda, determined to follow the organization by-laws. There were discussions and even arguments to help Vatra serve its mission towards the nation and to advance the nation’s interests. The moment that best illustrated this was the presentation of the qualifications and backgrounds of two candidates vying for the position of Vatra’s Chairman. Both Mr. Agim Rexhaj and Mr. Elmi Berisha, have a long history of actively campaigning and supporting the issues that concern our nation. Each presented their platforms. This Convention’s unique difference is that both candidates are Albanians born in Kosovo. Best of all, this Convention was rooted and driven by the members’ love for Vatra and desire to continue its advocating work for Albania, Kosovo and all Albanian lands presently under the administration of Montenegro, Northern Macedonia and Greece. The Convention itself did a performance review and touched on issues to be dealt with in the future. The Michigan Assembly was very vocal on one point: Vatra’s doors are open to anyone who wishes to abide by its mission statement in serving the national interests. During the election segment of the Convention, Mr. Agim Rexhaj, accepted, with utmost responsibility, the unanimous vote to be the next Honorary President of Vatra. The position had been vacant since the passing of his long-time mentor, Mr. Agim Karagjozi. His gesture, de facto, allowed the other candidate and long-term associate in advocating for Kosovo’s historic rights, Mr. Elmi Berisha, to be the first Kosovo Albanian at the Head of the 108 year-old Federation. Accepting the will of the delegates at the Convention, representing the organization members, the gentlemen will shoulder the responsibility for decisions and obligations of a national scale. I wish them good fortune and success!”.