Part 2: The During
The Ides of May will be hard to forget for most Serbs, for a while at least. But the government was trying to sweep the water under the proverbial carpet as it fell. It seems that the government’s solution for not being up to the job of dealing with the historic floods was to pretend they were in control by trying to hide what was really going on. In the article, linked in the caption of the picture to the right, from a television presentation of government meeting regarding the flood, the lack of leadership is apparent based on PM Vucic’s inability to stick to one train of thought decision within 1 meeting and does not need to be noted more than to say, it is sheer luck and the ability of those on the ground in the disaster zones that more property, persons and equipment were not lost. For those members of the Emergency Services that were in the zone trying to make a difference, listening to the PM was more like playing “Red Light, Green Light” instead of being part of a cohesive government action.
To add to the poor leadership choices that were being made, or more precisely not being made, the government also focused more attention on attacking people than they did to meeting their legal obligations for the safety of those same people. Less than 1 month after the flooding and what can the government say they have done successfully? Signed a loan agreement with UAE. Questioned at least 17 persons and charged at least 3 for supposedly inciting panic, by sharing information via Social Media. Ironically, numerous reports are that rescue teams were able to save several hundred persons due to information shared via Social Media. What panic ensued from reports on social media? That has not been properly presented. What was the information that was SO insightful as to create panic? Passing information regarding where rivers were breaching banks and by how much; and how many people were either affected or had succumbed to the disaster. While it is commonly known that sometimes initial figures can be inaccurate, it has also been proven that initial reports seem to be more reliable than not. Much discredit that comes afterwards is to the fact that someone in the government spoke that shouldn’t have or that information was accurate and shows ineptitude on the part of the government.
One would think that the government would have more important things to do during a natural disaster than to threaten, question and arrest people whom more than likely were making every sincere effort to help out their fellow man. And if passing along unverified information or numbers that the government hadn’t confirmed or didn’t want released is a crime and was worth more attention than flood response, then members of government are guilty of not only inciting panic, but also dereliction of duty and negligence. If the reports are true, as PM Vucic states in the article linked in the above picture, then the government kidnapped almost 100 children from their homes and separated them from their parents without consent of the parents. This conduct if in fact occurred as descried by PM Vucic, is inexcusable, immoral, unethical and illegal. Yet, there is no word on the location and condition of these children and their parents.
During the course of the floods it was very apparent that many cracks were shown in the government and their ability to handle such situations. Just because something might only happen every 100 years or might never happen is no reason to be so absolutely unprepared for such situations. As was stated in our previous article in this series, the basic skeleton for handling natural disasters is the same. But without the skeleton you are a jellyfish carried on the current without any choice, instead of a man able to determine his own course. It is never a good government that acts as a jellyfish, in lieu of a man. The reality is that while the jellyfish cannot be blamed for where it goes or the damage that it causes along the way, leaders are completely responsible not only for their direct actions, but also for the actions of those following their direct orders. If one hasn’t the fortitude for such repercussions then one should not be in public service position. Also, if your primary motivation for holding public office is your own ego and personal gain you are going to be a failure in such situations as floods. One does not out ego Mother Nature! The best that one can do is to find the most harmony from respect of her power and cycles.
One of the most apparent concerns to surface during the floods was just how divisive egos are in Belgrade. Yet, these fissures are not just withing Belgrade proper or within the municipality, but also have expanded to create in some places not just crevasses but canyons between Belgrade and outlying regions and municipalities. When one determines how they deal with another member of government based in a manner that publicly appears to be solely based on political party affiliation the whole public should not just be concerned, but also outraged to the extreme. Secondary, most people that are in any public office or that have any experience with public service know that you have more ‘Monday Morning Quarterbacking’ than you ever have supporters. That being said if you are going to pursue a career in the public sector you have to be able to handle criticism and extreme scrutiny of all decisions and actions that can in some way shape or form be blamed on you. If you are a good leader you learn to live with it. If you are a great leader you know that the best method for handling such individuals is to productively and positively engage them. However, it appears that PM Vucic instead censored them or by order or implication or facilitation directed the hacking of sites critical of actions and members of the government. That action is the action of a weak and or fearful leader. Which makes the whole nation weak and fearful. Serbia does not need more fear or weakness.