BOSTON, MA – In an interview with The National Herald, Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis proposed a referendum in Greece about the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). He said “let the people of Greece to decide what they want to do with the issue.”
That Greece is a representative democracy with duly elected officials notwithstanding, Sen. Raptakis said that “when issues of ethnic importance are raised that endanger the cultural heritage of the Hellenic Nation of many centuries, I think the government should at least the question open to the people.” But he added that “my concern is whether it is too late for a referendum; that should have been done years ago.”
Fifteen years ago, Raptakis issued a proclamation in Rhode Island Senate about the name Macedonia, and now the issue has arisen again. “Rhode Island has been at forefront on the issue that Macedonia is Hellenic,” he told TNH.“It has been, it is, and it always will be. We sent a strong message loud and clear. The problem we have today is that we have so many views within Greece with the name. We have sent a unified message through the country to all my colleges in government whether in Minnesota, in Georgia, in Nevada, in New Hampshire, that the name Macedonia is Hellenic.
“My personal feelings as a state senator from Rhode Island that the name our neighbor to the north should be Skopje, crystal clear, easy to understand,” and not causing any confusion.
He believes that every government in Greece, past and present from the time this issue first arose, should be unified because recent polls show that 77% of Greeks believe that “Macedonia” should not appear in FYROM’s name at all.
“It is sad that many governments in the past have not listened to the People of Greece,” he said.“So if the nation and the people spoke over 20 years ago with a unified message I don’t think we would have this problem today. Skopje would have understood that if they want to join NATO and be part of the European community, all they had to was to come to satisfactory resolution. We shouldn’t give up the fight and we should send a message to the Greek-American community.”
Does the community have a leader? That’s hard to say, Raptakis believes, because
“the Greek Community is spread throughout the 50 states. We don’t have a political leader, I think we have many leaders: the Church, different organizations, federations throughout our country. We are an independent country, an independent people, we are 50 different independent states under the federal government; I think it is very difficult to answer that question but I think we all are leaders within our community.”
He thinks Greeks in all the other states should model Rhode Island’s example of passing a resolution, because, as he explained, “resolutions send a strong message.” This year, Rhode Island will incorporate the resolution on Greek Independence Day, March 25.
ON PRESIDENT TRUMP
Raptakis, a Democrat, elaborated on Republican Donald Trump’s first year as president. “Domestically, there are a lot of questionable issues. He has accomplished a huge initiative, the tax cuts, which should stimulate the economy. His popularity is another matter.
Speaking about the president’s ethos, Raptakis said: “he is a little a bit brazen the way he speaks, the way he tries to convey himself, his message is not clear.”
Is it likely that he will be impeached? Raptakis doesn’t think so. “I don’t see any impeachment; I think impeachment is a serious issue, I don’t think the president has gone that far to be impeached.”
First elected to the Rhode Island Senate in 2012, Raptakis is in the final year of his third two-year term and plans to run for reelection in November. “I am here to serve the people of my state and also to support Hellenism.”