WHAT'S NEXT, MILOSEVIC?
by Aleksandar Tijanic and Slavko Curuvija
Evropljanin, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, October 19, 1998
Your excellency, you might not be aware that your state saw coup d'etat last week. Contrary to your proclamation that the threat of military attacks had been averted, the most extreme among your aides, members of the three parties of the ruling coalition, have kept the anti-constitutional Decree in force. They have introduced a de facto state of emergency, suspended laws and took over the control of Serbia.
The first measure of this group was to prohibit the Serbs to hear, speak and see. Three dailies and a radio station have been banned, the measure that is unheard of in Serbia's history. This brutal ban was followed with perverse demonstration of power and unaccountability.
This is Serbia's disgrace, Mr. President. But far from the worst that can happen to Serbia and her citizens. The ominous obsession with simplicity leads us to lawlessness, fear, terror, and dictatorship.
We are writing to you regarding the defense of freedom of press. However, our concerns are far more serious. Martial law and rule by decree have been introduced in Yugoslavia although the state of emergency has not been declared. All this has passed unnoticed by you. Why?
Is it perhaps because you refuse to face the final results of your ten-year long rule? Or is it because, feeling tired of ruling the country, you rebuffed the responsibility and decided to lend the authority to the group that won the wars waged in the royal palace - wars for control of politics, legislation, finances, police, secret services, Army, universities, media, and the entire state and society? Or is it because you exhausted the overwhelming support the majority of Serbs has entrusted you with when you assumed the power? Is your magic box, once full of political tricks, empty? Since there are no new means of deceiving the masses, you opted to preserve your own power by suspending the Constitution and laws, the mediators between yourself and the citizens, and decided to rule as an absolutist.
In case you are refusing to accept the balance sheet of your decade-long rule, we can assure you that your efforts are in vain. Historical accounts and the archives of facts have already been assembled. Each Serb, dead or alive, has become an accountant and a witness:
- Everything that the Serbs created in this century has been thoughtlessly wasted: state and national boundaries; the status of an ally in two world wars; national dignity; membership in all international institutions; the European identity of Serbs has eroded; Serbs withdrew from their ethnic territories in Croatia and parts of Bosnia; the nation has developed a complex of being an aggressor, genocidal, vanquished and a keeper of the last frontiers of European Communism.
- Merits and worth of all Serbian institutions have been destroyed in a planned manner: you have brought the University and a local farmers' collective to the same level, equated the Academy of Arts and Sciences with a nursing home, you degraded the Church, legislature, media, parliament, and the government.
- Under the cover of transition, which is nothing but a different name for robbery, you impoverished the middle class, nurturing at the same time the emergence of a new economic and political elite; national per capita GNP has dropped to $1,400, while in Slovenia (you used to claim that it will go bankrupt after the secession) it increased to $9,500, and in Tudman's Croatia it is $4,600; pensioners are forced to dig through garbage looking for food because the state owes them six to seven payments from the [state-run] pension fund; with financial pyramid schemes, loans and confiscated foreign currency deposits, the state stole from its citizens about $6.5 million; at the moment, about 2 million people are out of work, more than 100,000 educated and most capable individuals have emigrated fleeing the war, draft or simply because they didn't see a future for themselves in this country.
- You have left a small circle of about 100 families which enjoy your support and protection in charge of the state resources; officials of the state you lead demonstrate feudal extravagance and arrogance in the midst of huge misery and poverty; large companies are run by your proxies; they hinder the development of the free market because the free market has nothing in common with planned economy, monopolies, committees, decrees, pretend banks and ministries, fake credits, and the control of the foreign currency exchange rate in the streets through authorized currency dealers.
- Your country is in decline. Serbs are dying from diseases which are curable or do not exist elsewhere in the world; there are no medications, the situation with the health care system is dramatic, and the population uses sedatives the way vitamins are used in the developed countries.
- Nowhere in today's Europe crime and authorities are wedded in such a harmonious matrimony like here in Serbia. You are the only statesman who has hosted three men who were later killed in street showdowns; until today neither their murderers nor the reasons for their execution have been discovered; in the streets there are too many guns and violence; organized criminal gangs control circulation of important goods and services; para-military formations still operate; street violence and murders are a daily occurrence and the state has in practice delegated its responsibility for the personal safety of an individual and its property to the citizens.
- You are aware that the people who you have put in charge of the most important Serb institutions are incompetent. That is an offense and humiliation of everyone who can think in Serbia and the historic heritage of the Serbs who had traditionally put the most capable and honorable among them in such positions; you love secret agreements, mystery, lack of security for your collaborators; you have achieved that every official depends on your good grace and thus forced them to incessantly conspire against each other; the result of these intrigues is that the least capable and unscrupulous individuals are promoted; you have instigated populism and established a cult of personality; you have refused to publicly state what sort of system you are trying to establish: socialism, capitalism or something else.
- A psychosis of permanent state of emergency has been imposed on the society, in addition to the fear from omnipotent police and your henchmen, who boast that they can order executions of the people they dislike; absolute obedience is demanded from the population; hysterical choreographed outpourings of support are set up after every victory that contributes to our decline. The majority considers democracy to be the right to impose as a mandatory law its political will, taste and culture on the minority.
- During your tenure, spurred by the state-controlled media, all sorts of national prophets, vampires, quack doctors and monsters who eulogized death and war, all along making sure they do not die in it, made up the special character of our race, mission, faith, instigated hatred and belief in miraculous weapon left behind by Nikola Tesla or sent by Zirinovski; all that has produced social surrealism in which we live today.
- You destroyed the spirit of tolerance by instigating artificial conflicts and propelling confrontations between the rich and the poor, the rural and urban, between Serbia and Montenegro, police and Army. You turned the students against their professors, the literate against the illiterate.
If you feel tired of ruling and you wish to evade the responsibility and hand the power over to a handful of extremists, you should bear in mind the following:
- No European statesman of socialist provenance has chosen a radical rightist as a coalition partner. Can you imagine French prime minister Jospin or the centrist Chirac in a coalition with Le Pen? He is an extreme rightist who claims that Hitler's gas chambers and Pavelic's Jasenovac were only "minor incidents during WWII". Seven days ago, your coalition partner and vice-president in the Serbian Government Vojislav Seselj made Le Pen a honorary citizen of a certain Belgrade municipality. On which side did we fight in WWII, mister President?
- The coalition between the socialists, neocommunists and extreme right wing is deviant, anti-civilizational, ideologically hideous and clearly reflects your ambition: to preserve the power at all costs, even if it demands that you sign the pact with your ideological, personal and family enemies.
- Sharing the power will not satisfy the Radicals. They have started to co-opt members of the Yugoslav left and your own Socialist party in order to form a core which will have only two options to offer to Serbia: dictatorship or civil war which will drag Serbia into rampage of street gangs, rule of paramilitary forces and bandits with license to terminate anyone who does not resemble the image of a citizen created in their headquarters.
In case, however, that your behavior reflects the fact that you have decided to suspend the Constitution, rule by decree and impose the autocratic rule, you should be aware of the following:
- You will be personally responsible for all the grim consequences that such absolute power might bring about.
- Such rule can be nothing but short-lived.
- The principle means of controlling this sort of power is force. To execute such force and to be ready to use it, you will have to rely on the worst segments of population. Do you really wish to govern with the help of the most corrupted volunteers, who are already in abundance around you?
Your excellency, your country, your people and your compatriots have been living for ten years in a state of fear, psychosis, with noting but death, misery, terror and despair around them. Serbia is being stripped of territories and riches as if she were dead already. Serbia has less and less children, and gives them up too easily. Hungry and humiliated, your citizens have exhausted their spirits and have no strength to make even verbal protests. This was apparent during the last crisis. Resigned, the Serbs awaited either of the two possible outcomes: American bombs or Albanian secession. Serbs are disarmed, deprived of their survival instinct, precisely the way this regime wanted them to be.
If the population is silent and endures the authorities which would not have survived in any civilized state, what is the purpose of the suspension of the Constitution and laws, rule with decrees, ban of media, division on traitors and patriots, threats with arrest and fanning of the atmosphere of permanent state of war or emergency?
It is your duty, your Excellency, to immediately oppose the atmosphere of lawlessness and despair. In this you will succeed if, and only if, you commit your self to the following:
- Break up the coalition with Vojislav Seselj and the Serbian Radical Party.
- Demand the resignation of Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic his government.
- Recommend to Serbian President Milan Milutinovic to call new elections and entrust the Prime Minister position to a competent person, capable of forming a government of experts.
- Make peace with the ruling coalition in Montenegro.
- Request the resignation of the Federal government, appoint Milo Djukanovic a Federal Prime Minister and acknowledge Montenegrin MPs, members of the Montenegrin ruling coalition.
- Regain inter-ethnic tolerance and include minorities in highest political institutions.
- Engage in attempts to annul the Law on University.
- Stop the persecution of media and journalists.
- Initiate a true and prudent privatization, enhance market economy and a welfare state.
- Initiate a resolute struggle against organized crime, and display the results of such struggle.
- Secure independent judiciary, separation of power and a system of checks and balances.
- Allow Yugoslavia to rejoin all international institutions and renew the confidence of International Community in the Yugoslav state and Yugoslav people.
- Define national interests according to civilizational norms and standards of the developed world and apply for membership in the European Union and Partnership for Peace.
Your Excellency, the above-mentioned 13 points embody the choice between hope and despair for your people. Without hope, in a system, which does not adhere to any of the Ten Commandments, your authority becomes illegitimate. Legitimate authority works for the benefit and well being of its subjects.
Our letter to you is our modest contribution to the struggle against fear.
Aleksandar Tijanic and Slavko Curuvija
In Belgrade, October 19, 1998
The magazine was fined with $240,000 for this article and its property confiscated. You can send your comments directly to the responsible officials at
the following addresses:
His Excellency Slobodan Milosevic
President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
11000 Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia
Fax: 381 11 656 862
381 11 636 775
Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Serbia
11000 Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia
Fax: 381 11 657 379
Mr. Goran Matic
Secretary for Information
Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia
Fax: 381 11 600 446
Mr. Aleksandar Vucic
Minister of Information in the Government of the Republic of Serbia
Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia
Translated on 10/29/98