On Monday, KRIK website published an interview with Marija Mali, ex-wife of the Mayor of Belgrade. In that interview, Marija Mali made serious accusations against her ex-husband, including the one about him being responsible for the demolition at Savamala on the night after the 2016 election. However, if you don’t use social networks, don’t watch N1 or read Danas, you could easily have missed that. The public broadcasting service, our right to know everything, thought that we shouldn’t know this. What was happening is no secret. The media were waiting for prime minister Aleksandar Vucic’s reaction.
On Tuesday, in TV show Upitnik, Aleksandar Vucic told us everything we have the right to know regarding Savamala. He repeated the well-known statements – that the case of Savamala is not important and that the media keep insisting on it because they have nothing else to talk about, that the demolition should have been done during the day and not at night, that the demolished buildings were illegal. When he was asked to comment on Sinisa Mali’s role in the demolition, Vucic first reminded us of all the successes of the current Mayor of Belgrade and then stressed that he can no longer stay on that position. However, he didn’t say if that means that the Mayor won’t serve the entire term (the city elections are scheduled for 2018), although he did say that political consequences will be quicker than the verdict. He also reminded us that it was him who said right away that someone from the city government was responsible for it.
The problem is the fact that the prosecutor’s office is having troubles with the investigation. The case of Savamala is still in preliminary proceedings because the police refuse to cooperate. If we are to understand that this statement of the prime minister has finally confirmed that the only person responsible for the demolition on the night of the 2016 elections is Sinisa Mali, it makes sense to conclude that the police was following his orders that night and that they’re now protecting him by not publishing the necessary documents. This implies that Sinisa Mali is the most influential person in Serbian politics, able to organize city and national authorities and influence their willingness to cooperate with the public prosecutor. This, however, is hard to believe.
We could say a lot of things about Savamala, including the question of who was actually controlling the police on the night of the demolition, but a few things should also be said about Marija Mali. As she said in the KRIK interview, these public statements are her „last line of defense“. After filing criminal charges for domestic violence, she claims that Sinisa Mali has threatened her:
„I didn’t want to be a victim of violence, so I addressed the Center for welfare and they told me that I need to file criminal charges against the violator. Even then, he continued to threaten me, saying: ‘Don’t do that. If you do that, I will destroy you, I will take your children’. After I filed the charges, he did everything in his power to get custody over the children… To get back at me.”
She claims that her ex-husband is still sending her threatening text messages. He got custody over their children, her complaint was thrown out and Sinisa Mali’s charge against her for false reporting is still in progress.
Besides not having said anything against Sinisa Mali (other than the fact that he should have demolished by day), Vucic didn’t say anything against Marija Mali either. First he said that he only met Marija Mali „once or twice, on a child’s birthday” and that he’s not friends with the Mali family. Then he defended her openly:
„About my friend Sinisa, I have to say that I’m always on the side of the woman. Although I shouldn’t interfere and the judges know that way better than me, I will say something against him – I think that children should always be with their mother. That’s all I have to say to him. About this other thing, about the people who used and misused a woman who is fighting a custody battle with her ex-husband for political statements – that’s never been done in Serbia before. No one has ever done that in Serbia. That’s not humane.”
When I say that he defended her, I should mention that that defense was limited to the issue of custody. „Children should be with their mother” is a patriarchal attitude, just like Vucic’s whole statement. He, as a knight in shining armor, worries about a woman, a mother whose children were taken away from her and who was abused by some villains. Vucic doesn’t care about Marija Mali’s complaint about domestic violence. By saying nice things about Sinisa Mali as a mayor, a friend, and a person, and by not mentioning the accusation, he said a lot. Vucic, the knight in shining armor, will defend a mother whose children were taken away until his last breath, but won’t mention a woman as the victim of domestic violence.
The court’s decision about custody over the Mali children can’t be considered outside the context of Sinisa Mali’s position. He may not be the most powerful person in Serbia, but the power is on his side. Marija Mali’s claims should be verified, but it sounds plausible that Sinisa Mali has used his political power to secure custody over his children and pressure his ex-wife. The prime minister didn’t mention this possibility, although he said that the court’s decision was strange.
Vucic has found a way to avoid attacking both Sinisa and Marija Mali; he even expressed understanding for KRIK journalists, while simultaneously reminding the public that he’s the great protector of women and someone who is „always on the side of the woman“. The knight said these things, but did something completely different. During the entire interview, he interrupted RTS journalist Olivera Jovicevic. He attacked her and didn’t allow her to ask questions. He even questioned her. That is the knight who can’t stand when his or his colleagues’ actions are questioned. The knight who, only minutes after having said that he’s always on the side of the woman, says that „you can beat whoever you want in your own home“. Maybe this – “violence that happens inside the home, stays in the home” – was part of the answer to all the letters Marija Mali had sent him asking for help, which the prime minister didn’t want to comment on.
Translated by Marijana Simic