Palma.—Jaume Bonet is one of at least three members of Jubilats per Mallorca (The retired for Majorca) who are taking part in a hunger strike in protest against the new Partido Popular government's plans to ‘downgrade” the importance of Catalan and one of Bonet's close friends who has been to visit him over the past week is British resident Dick Fleming.

Fleming met Bonet through the OCB, Obra Cultural Balear, which is an organisation which was founded in 1962 to promote and protect the Catalan language and culture. “Jaume is a retired Maths teacher and a number of members have decided to get together and give free conversational lessons. So, I give English lessons, there are also German lessons and of course, lessons in Catalan and that is how I've got to know Jaume over the past three years. “I am a retired translator, I spent 35 years working for the European Union in Brussels before retiring to Majorca and, already being able to speak Spanish, I decided to join the OCB to learn the region's other official language, as well as take part in the various events they organise,” Fleming explained. “I have to admit that for me, as Catalan is not my mother tongue, I am not that caught up in the battle. “But Jaume and many others feel very passionate about preserving the language and they fear that the new laws the local PP intend to pass will eventually lead to Catalan becoming a language that is only spoken at home within a few generations. “I understand how he and his fellow protesters feel, I guess it would have been like Britain having lost WWII and everyone having to suddenly learn German and with also English publications and films banned. A bit like how Catalan was treated during the Franco regime. “Catalan is still very big at the University, for example, where my wife teaches, and in schools, but that appears as if it is going to change and Catalan is no longer a requisite to become a Civil Servant or a doctor, for example and this is what is concerning Bonet. “He is the first to go on hunger strike and there are at least two others ready to take over when Jaume starts flagging. But he had a medical before he started and I went to see him yesterday. He's fine. A little slimmer, but he was up and about talking. “He made it clear to me that he certainly does not intend to die but he desperately wants to draw greater public attention to the PP's new bills which he fears could eventually kill Catalan. He is confident because he knows that amongst the rank and file of the PP, he does have support, especially from the Mayor of Manacor and the Speaker of the Balearic Parliament. “As a linguist I know it's much easier to learn a third or fourth language if you are already bilingual, so perhaps the PP should be considering a trilingual education model in the Balearics. “For many, the government is threatening the future of people's mother tongue and Bonet's plight, which is on Facebook is even winning support from teenagers and young students but I think Jubilats per Mallorca want to lead the charge.”


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