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South Slavic: April 11, 2002


11 April 2002, Volume 4, Number 11

WHAT FUTURE FOR MONTENEGRO'S MUSLIMS?

Part IV. (Part I appeared on 7 March, Part II on 14 March, and Part III on 4 April 2002).

A recent program of RFE/RL Radio Most (Bridge) by Beba Marusic with Beba Dzakovic of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and Smajo Sabotic, a former member of the DPS and now a member of the Movement for Defense of the Joint State, which is headed by Matija Beckovic.

Sabotic: Who is going to renounce a big market of millions of people now that Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia are striving to join it? [As another example of trends toward integration,] Yugoslavia has just signed a customs union treaty with Bosnia for three years, etc. Another thing: a normal state would start a war for just one citizen, and we would have to renounce 1,200,000 of our people living in Serbia who have the right to be citizens of Montenegro, plus some 50,000 who pay their taxes to this government. That makes two reasons [for opposing Montenegrin independence].

The third reason is education. Some 80 percent of Montenegrin students, especially those from the north, are studying in Serbia.

Therefore, in whose interest can it be to separate Montenegro from Serbia? There are some 1,600 newly rich people, a new economic class whose aim is to become a ruling class. They are afraid of a new government that might investigate the sources of their wealth, just like the Karic brothers in Serbia are now afraid.

Unfortunately, these people are already very influential, and this is why they back the Montenegrin government's separatist efforts. These 1,600 rich men have 1,600 wives, 1,600 uncles, etc, which makes some 9,000 people. There are only 1,300 places in Montenegro for university studies and jobs in business. No one outside that group can enter college or find a job -- except as a wage laborer. The impoverished population will not be able to pay some $5,000 a year for university studies abroad, which is how Serbia will then be classified. Automatically, the poor will be the losers.

We want a change of the system, not its reform. This is what I am advocating. We are not against anybody. I am simply offering arguments why it is better to stay together.

Then there is medical treatment. If for our 600,000 inhabitants some expensive treatment were needed, and we had already split with Serbia, we would be forced to seek health care in Albania at an affordable cost or to pay 10 times more in Croatia or in Slovenia. A geo-strategic reason: Montenegro would cease to be a Danubian country, while Serbia would cease to be a coastal country. Bosnian Muslims fought for Brcko because the Sava is connected with the Danube, just as they fought their former Croatian allies in central Bosnia in order to get access to the sea, although it is only a matter of some 12 kilometers of coast near Neum. It is thus geo-strategically important to remain a Danubian and coastal country....

There is also a security issue. According to European standards, Montenegro cannot have 23,000 policemen anymore but only 6,000 police and military troops combined -- its security forces. And who is going to defend our 800,000-kilometer-long border? Who can guarantee that some 4,000 guerillas from Kosovo, southern Serbia, and Macedonia will not try to advance on Montenegro?

The Muslims will be in the first line of defense against those troops. What I am trying to say is that it is in the interest of the Muslims, too, to preserve the joint state.

Dzakovic: Don't exaggerate, Smajo.

Sabotic: The Muslims are actually a link between Montenegro and Serbia, since they live in Sandzak and Raska, in northern Montenegro and southern Serbia. If Montenegro and Serbia split apart, the link will break and the Muslims will be the biggest losers....

Dzakovic: I understand that medical treatment is sometimes necessary, but who has ever had free medical treatment in Serbia? Who has ever had a free education there? We pay for it all, for health care and for education. And we pay for other institutions, too, not only for health care....

RFE/RL: It seems to me, Mr. Sabotic, that your movement's outlook is very close to that of the Together for Yugoslavia coalition. Are you personally close to them, and what do you think about the recent [Yule log] incidents in Berane, for which the Interior Ministry has publicly blamed the coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 16, and 22 January 2002).

Sabotic: The difference, of course, is that we are not a political party but a citizens' association, which means a movement with [just] one goal: the preservation of the joint state. The movement will disappear the moment our goal is achieved.

I think that a very ugly thing took place in Berane on the day of reconciliation, the day of God's peace according to the Christian and Orthodox religions.... I wish all the citizens who have opted for an autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church [separate from the Serbian one] achieve their goal, but that should be done in an appropriate place, and not by the Interior Ministry and on the public squares.

RFE/RL: My question was whether Together for Yugoslavia organized [the placing of an explosive device in front of the local police chief's flat], as the Interior Ministry claims.

Sabotic: I really do not know whether it was organized or spontaneous. The burning of the Yule log had been publicized on television several days before the incident.... I cannot pass judgement on what happened, although media, or more precisely [the newsmagazine] "Monitor," called me Bin Laden.

Dzakovic: We do not support any church.... Those people [supporting the Serbian Orthodox Church against the Montenegrin Orthodox Church in Berane] are behaving like typical Stalinists, who never in their lives respected anybody's religion, including their own.

As an old believer and a member of the Orthodox Church, I am deeply hurt, so much so that I do not go to church anymore. I cannot go there together with those new believers who seem to be going there only [to make a political statement]. When somebody carries a skull and crossbones or a photograph of Slobodan Milosevic on Serbian or Orthodox New Year's Eve, can anybody claim that he is really celebrating the Serbian New Year? They should go to a political meeting with their photographs of Slobodan Milosevic and Karadzic, not to a Christmas celebration....

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