AIM: start

THU, 05 APR 2001 01:20:46 GMT

Reactions of the Republic of Srpska (RS) to Milosevic's Arrest

Banjaluka, April 2, 2001 (AIM)

Milosevic's arrest is the internal affair of Serbia and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY)! That would be the shortest reaction of the RS officials to the news that former FRY President has been arrested in Belgrade.

The first to issue a statement in this connection was RS President Mirko Sarovic. He took great care not to allow himself any slip of the tongue which might attract the attention of the High Representative for B&H:" Legal fact should be decisive and the entire case should be public so as to protect the democracy and prevent the abuse of the entire process".

The RS Prime Minister, Mladen Ivanic was not very specific. His comment only referred to the official statement on the reasons for the arrest. "The nature of the indictment against Slobodan Milosevic points to the resolve of the new authorities to investigate fully all aspects of the involvement of key political figures in something that could be called corruption", said Ivanic.

In contrast to cautious Sarovic and Ivanic, Zivko Radisic, Member of the B&H Presidency and until recently Milosevic's party comrade and careful student, was more explicit. This time the first Socialist in the RS was not confused, vague or the last to react. The journalists found him on an excursion on Mt.Kozara: "If we talk about the responsibility for possible war crimes, in my opinion no one can be exonerated for a crime he has committed", said Radisic.

Only former Prime Minister Milorad Dodik did not hide his pleasure with the arrest of his fierce political opponent. After his letter addressed to Milosevic just before the elections when he foretold his imminent political downfall, Dodik got the opportunity to once more gloat because of his predictions. "This is a logical epilogue of years-long dictatorship in which Milosevic managed to create confusions and problems for his, as well as for the people here", said Dodik adding quite clearly that the arrest was just a first phase before his departure for the Hague.

Radisic's reaction shows that with the loss of power Milosevic has lost his important ideological stronghold among the Serbs who blindly followed his political charisma. They washed their hands of him as easily as he used them for his political ends.

How sincere are the reactions of RS officials and what do they truly think about the departure of a politician with whom they have cooperated so intensively over the last ten years? What they publicly say certainly is not what they truly think. Statements that Milosevic's arrest is Serbia's internal affair is a permissible response and the fact that they did not overstep the permitted limits shows that they are well aware that the noose has started to tighten and that making too much noise would not bring anyone any good.

In contrast to the caution exhibited by political officials, the RS public didn't approve either of the method of or reasons for his arrest. The public opinion polls carried out by the media showed that most people thought that Milosevic should not have been arrested and should not be extradited to the Hague Tribunal. They link Milosevic's guilt and responsibility with that of the leaders of other nations who were at war with him (Tudjman and Izetbegovic). Psychologically speaking, the problem obviously is not Milosevic's guilt, but the fact that his extradition would be construed as collective punishment and another Serbian defeat.

Irrespective of the fact that no one is supporting Milosevic's arrest, the citizens of RS are more certain than ever that Milosevic will end up at the Hague. After the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia most of them have developed some kind of attachment to Milosevic as the incarnation of the defender of Serbian national interests. They will call this arrest the ultimate Serbian betrayal, DOS's capitulation and an American conspiracy, but will intimately resign themselves to the fact that their hero has to be surrendered to the Hague Tribunal.

An anonymous collocutor of the AIM, considered well-versed in the developments between Belgrade and Banjaluka, believes that Milosevic might join the accused political and military leaders of the Bosnian Serbs at the Hague and be called upon to answer for the crime of genocide in Bosnia & Herzegovina. According to him, the top Bosnian Serb political and state leadership at the Hague will be soon complete with the arrest of Karadzic and Mladic so that they could all be tried in one go. Milosevic's joining them would make the circle complete and bring to a close the chase after the organisers and instigators of the B&H war.

For the time being, the lack of emotions in reactions to Milosevic's arrest is a sign of the definite defeat of an ideology and policy in the space of the former Yugoslavia. The Serbs in B&H are the best indicator of such a change.

Branko Peric