A major warfare within the Serb minority in Croatia has gained messy and alarming proportions during the past few days pointing to corruption and shady dealings within that community. That which started as a public row and mud slinging between Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic and the president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party/SDSS Milorad Pupovac has now turned into ugly conflicts and confrontation between some Serb political parties in Croatia and prominent individuals within the Serb minority community of Croatia.
Josipovic was adamant that Pupovac has been utterly ineffective as Croatian Serb leader and that he acted for personal gains, failing miserably on behalf of Serb minority in Croatia. On the other hand, allegations against Josipovic went in this direction: that he is using individual Croatian Serbs such as Veljko Dzakula, Dejan Jovic and Sinisa Tatalovic as vessels to get closer to Serbia’s president Tomislav Nikolic.
Josipovic was adamant that the issues affecting Croatia’s Serb minority must not be monopolised by Pupovac and that other Serb representatives must be heard as well.
So, in the past week, followed a stream of visits to the Office of the President of Croatia (Josipovic) by a number of Croatian Serbs. Of course, the NGO Serb National Council (SNC) in Croatia, which stands behind its founder Pupovac, expressed abhorrence at the fact that Josipovic could even contemplate inviting persons of Serb extraction in Croatia who have an active past in the Serb aggression against Croatia in early 1990’s.
To boot, the Serb National Council criticised and reprimanded Josipovic for inviting to his office the president of the Serb Peoples’ Party (in Croatia) Milan Rodic and the president of Trpinja Municipal Council Nikola Lazic. According to SNC Milan Rodic was a weapons supplier to rebel Serbs in Croatia, that he sold houses belonging to Croatian Serbs illegally and that his name was on the recently published “Pillar of Shame” for owing some 300,000 HRK in taxes – as such, SNC maintains, Rodic has no place in being invited by Josipovic for talks.
The SNC accused Nikola Lazic as being corrupt and having amassed property on shady and corrupt dealings with agricultural land in Croatia.
Rodic, on the other hand, stated publicly that Pupovac was “dangerous for the Serb community in Croatia” and “embarrassing for the Croatian government”. Rodic also said that Croatian authorities should investigate Pupovac because of suspicions regarding the disappearance of 7.6 million HRK received by the SNC in 2008 from the Ministry of regional development of Croatia.
On Sunday 26 August Rodic has denied the allegations against him by SNC regarding arms dealing and supplying rebel Serbs and regarding selling Serb houses illegally. He admitted to owing taxes but said that these debts relate to employee benefits that were not paid. In his statement to Croatian TV HRT Rodic said that he will sue Pupovac for defamation and go all the way to “Hell” until justice is done.
Reportedly, Rodic has commenced his pursuit for justice against Pupovac and the Serbian National Council and called it “Fimi media of the Serb community” (Fimi media scandal in Croatia has been associated with the ongoing court proceedings for corruption against former prime minister Ivo Sanader where it’s alleged that the company “Fimi Media” was used to channel and “launder” funds from public companies into the so-called black fund of the Croatian Democratic Union when Sanader was its president/ 2000 – 2009).
The unraveling of dirty laundry within Croatia’s Serb community is all about egos and political power. Perhaps we will yet discover that it’s not the Croatian government that’s solely responsible for the alleged (by international organisations such as Amnesty International) poor record of integrating Serbs into Croatia but that Croatia’s Serbs and their various leaders have a strong case to answer on this.
Josipovic was right in wanting to change the climate of Serb representation in Croatia to fit the Serb minority profile as a whole, but charging like he did against Pupovac, like a bull in a china shop, only fortifies the observations that he has no strategy for achieving orderly, lasting and meaningful reconciliation of all outstanding painful 1990’s war issues between Serbs and Croats of Croatia any time soon. If, by some fluke, a strategy surfaces in this sorry state of affairs regarding relations with Croatian Serbs that has plagued the Croatian media for almost a month, then one might see it as “divide and conquer” ( a dirty war has actually broken out between various Croatia’s Serbs and “Pandora’s box” has opened) then that strategy is likely to bring significant setbacks for a fuller and heartfelt integration of Serbs into Croatian citizenship.
Integration of this nature should be a peaceful process – planned and having everyone’s rights attended to. Majority will agree, in all this Croatia must come first for all ethnic groups who are its citizens. Josipovic would do well by staying out of this bitter and hateful war that has broken out among individual leaders of Croatian Serb community and quick smart draft a plan and strategy for ethnic minorities’ integration into Croatian citizenship and publish such a plan so that all citizens may follow the process and positively contribute wherever possible. Keeping the Serb relations with Croatia at boiling points, without any sight of common good, in the media does nobody any favours and least to the masses of desperate unemployed who want to see direction and not scuffles and recriminations between political figures. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)