AIM: start

TUE, 24 APR 2001 23:37:56 GMT

State and Other Secrets

Guardians of Secrets and Nation

AIM Belgrade, April 8, 2001

Slobodan Milosevic, "the greatest son of the Serb people after Lazar and Karadjordje", as his most ardent supporters see him, and "the man who Serbia plebiscitarily placed its trust in three times" as his party comrades claim, wishing at all costs to avoid solitary confinement in the Central Prison, revealed that all the money from the Federal Customs Administration (SUC) collected by his closest associates was spent on protection of Serb national and state interests. Milosevic did not deny that the money was taken from the SUC nor that his men of confidence were involved, he just did not accept the allegation that it was used for some other purposes except patriotic and state ones, in other words, for financing the struggle of the Serbs outside Serbia for preservation of Serb ethnic identity and its preservation in the country which was under sanctions.

Milosevic's lawyer Toma Fila reduced the confession that FRY financed the army of Republika Srpska down to the fact that it paid several thousand officers of that army, but characterised that as the "domain of state secret", without going into the question why his client had chosen this moment to speak up about it.

However, many legal experts reflected on the statement of former president of Serbia and Yugoslavia wondering whether it could imply a direct confession of Slobodan Milosevic that FRY had participated in the war and therefrom in war crimes in B&H and Croatia or not, and a message arrived from the Hague Tribunal that it would be a welcome evidence for completion of a new indictment against Milosevic which could soon be made public. For the time being, local experts remained on the same level in their analysis of this sentence from Milosevic's appeal against the decision on his remaining in custody for a month commenting that it could have been aimed at re-opening of the bottle to let out the evil spirit of nationalism as the last bastion of defence of former president he had tested many times before in the past.

Financing of the army of another state under the pretext of protection of Serb ethnic interest in the form of state secret opens a million and one other questions - from the one about what could be proclaimed a state secret in the past ten years, who and how made decisions about it, to the question of criteria for the choice of those who were expected to implement certain decisions. This opens the question of the essence of the system we had lived in during all these years of Milosevic's rule. Every state in the world can, of course, proclaim certain documents a state secret. It is assumed, however, that this is not a matter of decision of any individual, not even the president of the state, but that a relevant body reaches the decision on the degree of confidentiality. In Serbia and FRY this obviously was not the case. If the political decision to pay the military cadre in RS was reached, and the question is who and based on what authority reached it, it certainly was not known to the public. On the contrary, an impression was intentionally created that FRY firmly abided by the provisions of the Dayton accords and it was stressed many times that it was doing it although other signatories were violating what they had signed. But if somebody decided to secretly finance the army of RS, it would have been quite logical if money for that purpose had been found in the budget of FRY, in the part allocated to the Army of Yugoslavia (VJ), especially if it was coming from a federal institution such as the Federal Customs Administration.

The pretext that that was impossible because the budget is a public document raises new questions. Since in the past ten years the number of army personnel has always been considered as strictly confidential, the salaries of 1700 officers of RS could have hardly been a greater problem than the figures on the salaries in VJ. Similar was the case with other items financed from the Army budget since all the reports on how the available means were spent were always submitted just in general outlines and approved almost automatically, thanks to the majority in the assembly. If these funds had really been spent for the mentioned purposes, the only reason could have been that Milosevic was afraid that certain forces in the Army of Yugoslavia who had access to the exact data would "feel awkward for concealing the truth". And this opens the question of the situation in VJ and of control how money from the Army budget was spent.

On the other hand there was the possibility of presenting the "special expenses" in annexes of certain documents, that of the budget inclusive, which did not have to be made public. Publication of documents in confidential official media could not satisfy Milosevic either because, as it turned out, he did not trust many people. That is why even the deputies of the majority in the parliament, nothing to say about the deputies of the opposition, were "deprived" of the satisfaction to decide on "state secrets". Only Nikola Sainovic, Zivadin Jovanovic and a few other associates of the then president had this privilege, who received hundreds of thousands German marks from the hands of Mihalj Kertes, according to the latter’s own confession. He occasionally wrote a receipt or two, but whether those who received that money did it or it ended up in their or party pockets it is very difficult to say at this moment.

Milosevic's wish to claim for himself alone the role of the "defender of Serb national interests" should be greatly insulting for Milosevic's coalition partner - the Serb Radical Party - whose leaders constantly stressed that they shared power with Milosevic just because they had the same goal - defence of the Serb national interests. As there are no indications yet that any one from this party was a man of confidence who would carry the money from the cashbox of the Federal Customs Administration to those who would defend those interests, Vojislav Seselj and his party comrades ought to at least be hurt if not insulted by the fact that they obviously served Milosevic as "extras" in the performance on "Serbia as a multiparty and parliamentary country". In other words, they were just the necessary setting for Milosevic who, alone or in cooperation with a very small number of party comrades, made decisions on everything, just as the governments of national unity in which they so pompously participated, they were just a screen for concealing some of the decisions already made in some other places not prescribed by the Constitution, such as financing of the army of RS or sale of Telekom, or foundation of Dafiment bank, for example.

What could one say about the fact that Slobodan Milosevic, in the capacity of the president of Serbia, put his signature on the document such as the Dayton accords which guarantees the existence of Bosnia & Herzegovina as an independent state, and then, immediately after having returned to the country laurel-crowned as the guarantor of the peace in the Balkans, secretly financed operation of the army of one of its entities, except that the international community had strong reason to claim that Milosevic could not and should not be trusted. Was not the recognisable habit of Milosevic's to say one thing, occasionally even sign something (although very rarely), and do just the opposite, the main reason why the Dayton accords have never been ratified by the federal parliament? In such circumstances the demands addressed to Belgrade that it had to implement the Dayton accords and meet the obligations assumed with that document were either disregarded or simply interpreted as "the wish of the West to destroy Slobodan Milosevic at any cost".

It should therefore not surprise that not even after his defeat in the elections, majority of the citizens could not understand what insisting of the USA that "FRY break the ties with RS" meant. Those who claimed that they were "well informed" tended to say that it was just another proof of America’s double standards and that it "intended to prevent signing of the agreement on special relations between FRY and RS although it supported such an agreement when the Croats in B&H and Croatia were concerned". The new administration has not truly tried to resolve this confusion even when Wolfgang Petritsch suddenly showed up in Belgrade in order to discuss the drafted agreement with the Yugoslav party.

In the end it turned out that financing of the army of RS during all the past years was a secret only for the citizens of FRY, both the ordinary ones and the ones elected by the people to represent them in legislative bodies while all the relevant organisations and authorities in the world knew about it only too well. The logical question that arises is what else had been a “state secret” when nowadays Branislav Ivkovic, head of the group of deputies of the Socialists in the Republican parliament, in defence of his party’s president publicly declares that “SPS has never stopped supporting its Serb brethren, not even when the blockade on the Drina was allegedly put up”. What was the meaning of the farce in the Republican parliament caused by that blockade in which the Radicals played the main role, intentionally or accidentally? How much did this performance cost the taxpayers, and how much did it bring to those who knew this “state secret”? Finally, how many other such “state secrets” can this people expect to learn now that things have started unraveling? And what was the price it paid because Milosevic and his supporters had taken upon themselves to “protect” the Serb nation?

Tatjana Stankovic