CELEBRATION over the capture of Croatian General Ante Gotovina should be tempered by the consideration that he was unquestionably a victim of Croatian internal politics. Because of his popularity through Operation Storm' he was considered a threat' to politicians of both parties and particularly a threat to the current President of Croatia, Sepic Mesic. The UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services is examining whether the War Crimes Judge, Carla Del Ponte, ignored evidence of forged documents which showed Gotovina was set up by officials working for Sepic Mesic. The forged documents at issue concern transcripts of a meeting on 31 July 1995 between former Croatian president Franjo Tudjman and senior members of his military leadership, including Gotovina. In the transcript, Tudjman is recorded to have urged his military commanders to hit the Serbs so hard that they will disappear forever. Shortly after this date Croatian forces under Gotovina's command, assisted by US and UK advisors, launched a massive military operation known as Operation Storm to recover the Croatian province of Krajina. Anticipating this action the local Serb commander in Krajina ordered all his military, and Serb civilians, to leave the province. This resulted in the flight of over 200'000 Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia. Del Ponte, alhtough she knew of the forgeries, argued to the tribunal that the transcript proved Gotovina's primary objective in Operation Storm was to ethnically cleanse the Serb population from Croatia. There is not an iota of proof that Gotavino carried out any of the war crimes he is accused of. To suggest that Gotovina's arrest will solve Croatia's problems about EU entry disregards the real problems the country faces. Lurking just beneath surface of business and economic life throughout the country is an octopus of corruption with its tentacles reaching into government itself. Chop off one arm and the creature grows another, making its insidious way through cement and chemical factories, shipyards, hotels, fish factories and every form of previously state-owned company. It started with privatisation when, to encourage free enterprise after the fall of communism and the collapse of the Yugoslav state, the government sold off huge chunks of its former industries. It is reflected today in the skeletons of these rotting enterprises, deliberately bankrupted and sucked of all life and flesh, which litter the coast and business world of Croatia. The buyers, many ex regime managers and former party bosses, weren't after the businesses - but the real estate to sit on - and they remain today an ugly barricade to genuine investment in Croatia. Gotovina had a reputation of not tolerating corruption and, had he aspired to politics and succeeded, there is little doubt that his first battle would have been against the ugly realty of today's Croation mafia - the octopus! Meb Cutlack, S'arraco
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