Truth and Reconciliation"
Vojislav Kostunica, President of the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
19. maj 2001.
Andric’s “Faces,” there is a short story, rather a note, about
a young teacher in Sarajevo, Danilo Ilić, “whose soul was
so much fulfilled and overwhelmed with his desire for justice
and freedom that he decided to bear the most difficult of crosses
– to be the murderer and the victim, the judge and the martyr,
at the same time.” There have been too many such crosses on
this soil. And there always have been. It is, or at least was,
the curse of the Balkans, Bosnia, Serbia and Yugoslavia. It
is high time we acted to be rid of that curse.
It was not so long ago that once again we found ourselves in
the maelstrom of large-scale internal political conflicts, inter-ethnic
hatreds and animosities that had been suppressed and hidden
for half a century, only to break out with their old ferocity
as soon as external and internal circumstances permitted. The
former state collapsed in bloody civil wars, with not at all
insignificant assistance from abroad, and the new one established
amidst historic predicaments, which the then politicians, largely
(Josip) Broz’s poor copies, could not overcome, but rather magnified.
As a people and as a state, we inherited not only economic desolation
and legal chaos, but also the bitter feelings of those vanquished
in war and estrangement from our neighbours. We inherited sorrow,
misfortune that was both our own and that of other people, just
like in the aftermath of any war.
Today we face two major challenges, closely
interrelated. They are symbolised by two words: truth and reconciliation.
We must answer two questions: What really happened and how do
we go on? This is the only way to make the past clear to future
generations and to explain to them how their predecessors found
the way out of the maze. It is our generation that has to make
this possible for them. The question is – how? It is this generation
that is part of this troubled chapter in history, while we are
immediate successors to a series of clashes and wars in which
human life was worth no more than a bullet. I wonder sometimes
if we are truly able to make this Copernican turn-about in our
miserable history. I only know that we must in order to survive.
Therefore we must begin. Seriously, determinedly,
believing that we will bring the task to an end. What end? What
historic situation? The one in which we will say with pride
– people here, our citizens and our neighbours alike, have begun
to live decently. To work freely, move unhindered and employ
in accordance with their capabilities and qualifications, to
feel their well-deserved legal and social safety, to freely
advocate their views and practice their religions.
In order to make it happen, we have to revise
our near and distant past. We have to face it as a number of
objective facts and myrrad subjective observations and experiences
stemming from them. This is going to be a very difficult task
in a society in which nearly every family has its own tragic
story. It is only knowledgeable and highly moral people that
can start it. I must say that there are many people in this
country, who, in a long and difficult period of time, have demonstrated
their humanity and resistance to the mainstream of that painful
era. I see them among the youth, the intellectuals, and the
professionals. More importantly, I see them among so-called
ordinary people. We have to bring together these dispersed elements
of our awareness and conscience, to organise ourselves, and
begin the process of general moral recovery. Without that recovery,
any other will prove impossible.
This was the idea that led me to establish
the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, it is a mere
stone of goodwill thrown into the waters of the present historic
predicament. The notion and wish is that the stone produce many
concentric rings of activity to be carried out by many associates
and activists. The Commission’s task is to band together all
those who see truth and reconciliation as the cornerstones of
a future resurrected public life. Whether this historic project
will succeed or not depends on all of them and all of us.
Our entire public will be made familiar
with the results of the Commission’s work. It will be the guide
in an important historic venture, not a group that will pass
judgment on what the ultimate truth is, or give us a recipe
for reconciliation. It can help us and set us on the right path.
And, at the end of the day, each of us will find truth and reconciliation
in our own conscience. And understanding. And memory, and, perhaps,