It is never decent to gloat over those who have been defeated, however, the case of the Minister Svetozar Ciplic merits a short review of the results the Minister and his cabinet achieved during the last three years. Inspired by the last resignation in the Ministry (Petar Antic resigned due to “unprofessional behavior, inactivity, nepotism and unscrupulous financial dealings of Minister Ciplic”), I will attempt to offer a short overview of the failures of former judge Ciplic.
Namely, Ministry for Human and Minority Rights is not part of the group of ministries particularly interesting to the ruling party predators. This is why Ciplic, a former judge, was appointed to this position, although he had no special professional experience in the field of human and minority rights prior to becoming a minister. It is said that his colleagues from the Democratic Party chased him through the corridors of DS begging him to take this feeble position in the government. Very well, it is not fair to judge Ciplic only based on his work biography – he should be judged based on the results he has achieved. At the beginning of his mandate, the Minister gathered several obviously qualified individuals, gave them positions of state secretaries and deputies. Thus, during the first year, this Ministry (thanks to the team surrounding the Minister) achieved some decent results. The problems which appeared in the meantime were the consequence of the Minister’s totalitarian approach to work and towards his employees. Furthermore, when parties, due to a complete lack of interest for the field of human and minority rights, appoint a Minister who is also not interested in this subject, we get the result that we currently have. I will offer several examples which faithfully exemplify the (in)competence of the Minister and his closest associates.
1. National Councils of National Minorities
One of the two biggest challenges the Ministry faced in this mandate (first was the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination) was the establishment of National Minority Councils. After the Law on councils of national minorities was passed, elections for national councils followed (held in June 2010). Although the organization of these elections was appalling, this task was somehow carried out. The problem with the national council of the Bosniak community appeared when the group gathered around Mufti Zukorlic won the elections for the national council. To honor the need for peace and unity within the ruling coalition, Minister Ciplic brutally obstructed the formation of the Bosniak National council, not allowing Bosniaks to constitute the council with the simple majority. In other words, in order for Ugljanin and Ljajic not to complain (for the sake of peace in the house, the ruling house), Minister Ciplic used the mechanism of discrimination and decided that, only in the case of this national minority, general rules did not apply, and that the Bosniak national council could be constituted only with two thirds of elected members of the national council. This rule did not apply to any other minority in Serbia. With this decision, Minister Ciplic brought Sandzak to the brink of a serious conflict. This problem still remains unsolved, and there will probably be two national councils in Sanzdak, one formed by the state and the majority one, which overwhelmingly reminds us of the well proven recipe Serbia uses when solving the issue of minorities. This culinary approach consists of making representatives of minorities angry and removing them from state institutions. This approach has, on more than one occasion, led us into a conflict with people whom we lived in peace with for the majority of the 20th century. And when people get tired of government behavior and when they rebel, then, of course, the guilty parties are “fanatics” like Mufti Zukorlic.
2. The case of Marko Karadzic
Former state secretary Marko Karadzic resigned in September 2010, after several months of actual mobbing he was subjected to by some of his colleagues and the Minster himself. Namely, Marko Karadzic turned out to be an unsuitable employee because he had a clear standpoint on issues of human and minority rights at every given moment, and he shared this standpoint with the media. In his role as state secretary, Karadzic drew attention to himself with statements about Srebrenica, the Pride Parade and similar topics which cause great pain and denial amongst all nationally aware citizens of Serbia. This is the reason he received threats and why his apartment was burglarized. The support of Minister Ciplic, mildly put, was nonexistent. To be honest, the state offered him a gun (real gun, with bullets and possibility of weapon training) for self-defense. However, since Karadzic did not see himself in the role of Eliot Ness of human rights, he politely refused this offer.
Karadzic was also one of the rare state employees who strongly supported the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination (when clerics were deciding its fate), although this should have been the job of those who proposed the draft law, Mr. Ciplic and the entire Government. However, it turned out that in the country where every institution is a one man show, such an approach to work is not desirable. Minister Ciplic made this perfectly clear to the former state secretary. Namely, at one point, Ciplic went so far as to prohibit Karadzic from using the office phone. However, the fact that Marko Karadzic refused to receive his salary and keep his mouth shut, or, most importantly, not meddle in his own job, is far more important than this banality. In addition to Marko Karadzic, state secretary Aniko Muskinja Hajnrih quietly left the Ministry in October 2010.
3. Item “miscellaneous”
The list of Ciplic’s “sins” is long and its burden is too heavy for one article to bear. I should mention the fact that during his mandate, the Minister abolished Yugoslavs as a national minority. Namely, he concluded that Yugoslavs cannot be a recognized minority because they don’t have a language, alphabet and literature. It is like Yugoslavia never had writers like Krleza, Kis or Andric, like tens of thousands of people from mixed marriages who perceive themselves as Yugoslavs were not the heritage of Yugoslavia… So what else happened? With his instructions how to form the voters lists (for national councils elections), the Minister enabled serious violations of human rights (abuse of personal data, since third parties were able to register voters against their will). One of the more serious oversights of the Ministry was the lack of adequate reaction during the riots against the Roma population in the village of Jabuka. Let me remind you that in June of last year, several hundred angry citizens demanded justice for the murder of one sixteen-year-old boy. The riots lasted for five days, the Roma were guarded by policemen in full armor, while Mr. Ciplic failed to react adequately. Nor did he, God forbid, appear in this village, which is a thirty minute drive from Belgrade.
Concerning Roma, Minister Ciplic did nothing about the issue of university education, i.e. positive discrimination (affirmative measures). Roma, as the most endangered minority in Serbia, must have access to universities through legal protection. This is common practice in the entire world. During the three years of his mandate, Ciplic did very little to help the implementation of positive discrimination. It is only starting from this month that the Roma will have access to free university education (thanks to the Ministry of Education). However, this process was unnecessarily late for several years.
And, finally, the Minister can be criticized for ignoring the recommendations and criticisms of Rodobljub Sabic, as well as for ignoring the existence of similar institutions and colleagues – the Ombudsman and the Commissionaire for Equality.
This was a short overview – list of all the failures of only one minister in the government led by Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic. But the issue here is not only Ciplic. Ciplic is only the illustration of a bizarre political nomenclature, which is obviously ready to stick by its party soldiers until the very last moment, while the issue of whether their names are Tomica or Svetozar, is completely irrelevant.
Translated by Bojana Obradovic