The tragic end of the nine-year girl from Veles, whose request for surgery was stuck in bureaucratic labyrinths, encountered an avalanche of citizens’ reactions – protests, sharp criticism from experts and various associations, and logically it resulted in demands for resignations in the Ministry of Health and the Health Insurance Fund. However, past experiences have shown that Macedonia has a “shy” trend for withdrawal from office as a moral act. Ministers who have taken responsibility, personal initiative to leave the department because of accidents, deaths, or scandals can be counted on the fingers of one hand. What is unthinkable in developed democracies, in our country the escape from liability turns into practice.
“Macedonian society has failed to create moral political criteria for making one’s moral and political responsibility objective, which is not legal, criminal, etc. Here we have ministers who have been in power for 10 years, who feel the department as their own property. They do what they want because they treat the public only in a way of advertising. In recent years we have not been treating the public as a partner for building policies. The public is only a target for manipulation. Hence, how come the public has political or moral weight for which a minister should resign from public pressure? Such a thing does not exist. In an autocratic and undemocratic regime there is no such type of resignations as you imagine. It works differently here. He is not accountable to the public, but before the head of the party. He does not resign, because to him the public is only what the court of the party thinks, that is its head”, says journalist and analyst Sasho Ordanovski for “Inbox7”.
For Ordanovski it is distortion, because, as he believes, in democracy parties are part of the public, and not the only public. For the particular case of nine-year-old Tamara Health Minister Nikola Todorov, as he says, may feel responsible only if the Prime Minister requests it, because he does not work for the public, but for the success of his head.
Professor Biljana Vankovska says ministers are responsible for the situation in the department they govern, and there is no doubt about it. The dilemma arises when we come to the question of how to realize that responsibility. Unfortunately, as she says, the case of little Tamara is only the top of the Himalayas of healthcare problems.
“The current overreaction by the public is due to the fact that this child became familiar to us all and we experienced her death as something personal. If the government had been responsible, the Prime Minister himself would have dismissed Todorov long ago (in fact, since the time when he was Minister of Education). If we had a functioning parliament, its liability would be decided in the impeachment proceedings. If Todorov had a glimmer of conscience, he would alone resign on moral grounds. In this case, we saw that many other actors have failed in the health system, but someone does not believe that someone will be responsible”, said Vankovska for “Inbox 7”.
According to her, in Macedonia there is a culture of impunity even when it comes to crimes, or persons responsible for the crimes, and even war crimes. In such an atmosphere, she say, ministers and other public officials even feel as untouchable, above the law – and of course, above morality.
“Todorov is a good example of this. Although a lawyer, when he was Minister of Education he said that he was responsible, but he did not feel guilty! He does not distinguish between legal (and subjective) responsibility for committing a misdeed, and political and moral (subjective) responsibility for the situation in the department for which he is personally responsible! Since then, unfortunately, he has even progressed, because now he said he did not even feel responsible! Unfortunately, in the current political constellation, we only have to carry out public pressure, to protest, to make petitions, to speak loudly to get the Prime Minister or Todorov himself to act as any PM would act in this situation or any decent man when asked to sacrifice his position – it is the least he can do for the public, for the party and the government, and for himself”, said Vankovska.
Professor and analyst Jove Kekenovski emphasized that the Macedonian Constitution does not distinguish between offered and submitted resign. The constitution does not mention offered resignation, but speaks about submitting a resignation. In a situation when a minister or another senior official resigns it is a definite act, which, according to him, means that nobody has the right to decide about it.
“It is about a one-way, that is, definite act of the one who submits his resignation. And so here in the foreground it is moral rather than political responsibility. When we have submitted resignation, PM must not and cannot ignore it or not to accept it regardless of the fact it has or does not have a political interest…This is because conscience or morality has a stronger effect than the political interest. And therefore, submitted resignations in the past, which were not accepted by the President of the Government were not politically correct because only the one who submits the resignation decides about it. Neither Prime Minister, nor MPs. This is a definitive act that should only be concluded. Everything else is just a game”, said Kekenovski for “Inbox7”.
Few resignations, a lot of black spots
Antoni Peshev, once Minister of Transport in 1993 dared to submit an irrevocable resignation on moral grounds after the air accidents of “Paler” and “Avioimpeks”. In 1995 Ljubomir Frckovski resigned, then Minister of Internal Affairs, when on October 3, 1995 there was assassination attempt on President Kiro Gligorov. The media wrote about Frckovski’s resignation several days after the assassination attempt, however, the then Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, after a month thinking, did not accept it. The resignation offered by the Minister of Transport and Communications Mile Janakieski, however, came after the boat accident on Lake Ohrid. In the largest national lake 15 Bulgarian tourists were killed, but Janakieski’s decision was not accepted by the current Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
Ordanovski recalls the resignation of Gjuner Ismail, whom the media often forget. In 1996 Ordanovski as director of MRTV was dismissed and Ismail, as then Minister, spokesperson of the Government, did not agree about direct interference in the independent editorial policy of the television.
“Gjuner Ismail resigned as political, moral protest against my dismissal from MRTV. I was removed by the Government of Branko Crvenkovski, by order of Gligorov and Crvenkovski. As he was the minister spokesperson in the government, in the department for public relations, he felt it was unacceptable to threat the public interest and the function of the national television”, recalls Ordanovski.
In Laze Elenovski’s term an army helicopter crashed, killing 12 soldiers. There was pressure in the public, but the then defense minister refused to resign. It was similar when the government plane crashed that killed President Boris Trajkovski and eight associates. Agron Budzaku was department minister and the manager of the General Affairs Goran Minchev was responsible for maintaining the government fleet. Although on the streets rivers of people for days protested for Martin’s murder and MIA gave contradictory statements, Minister Gordana Jankulovska did not resign.
Professor Temelko Ristevski from FON University speaks about the latter case with Tamara in the public. In his letter he emphasizes that the procedure for the little girl from Veles was run for months. Three months have passed since November 2014 when the Minister of Health promised that funds would be allocated for Tamara’s surgery. This means that the proceedings were initiated before November. According to him, it is obvious that “the bureaucrats of the Health Insurance Fund and the Ministry of Health, in this case, and in many other cases, are placed above the international legal acts, above the Constitution and laws of Macedonia”.
“Pleas of Tamara’s parents did not reach their bureaucratic souls. No different behavior could be expected from them if we take into consideration the psychological profile of a bureaucrat. The desire for power, for domination over others is a basic feature of bureaucrats. In his relation to citizens and clients he is insensitive, cold, poor and arrogant. Towards superior civil servants he is paternalistic, slanderous, lackey and sycophant. In pursuit of personal duties he is casual, lazy, irresponsible and relaxed. He acts as if the service, the state and citizens were created and existed for him, and not vice versa. From such officials – bureaucrats we cannot expect humanism and solidarity. A lot more can be said about socio-pathological features of a bureaucrat. But fortunately, there is a Criminal Code sanctioning unscrupulous operations of bureaucratized officers in the service”, said Risteski in the public address.
World ministers resign even after “Facebook” comments
Hundreds of resignations have been recorded worldwide because of incorrect statements, plagiarism in doctoral dissertations, comments on social networks, holidays with other people’s money, bugging, deaths…Not always had ministers in common with specific cases and scandals, but took responsibility for omissions in their department.
In Slovenia, the Minister of Health Tomaž Gantar resigned due to the inability to implement health reforms, and Foreign Minister Miodrag Radunovic left office after occurrence of infection in the department of gynecology at the General Hospital in Bijelo Polje, where a newborn died.
Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Boris Tucic resigned because the authorities in Sarajevo had been preparing arms sales to Ukraine. Estonian Finance Minister Jürgen Ligi left after a derogatory comment on the social network “Facebook”, addressed to a colleague in the Estonian government, incurring the fury of the public in the country. The British Brooks Newmark withdrew from ministerial chair after The Sunday Times had published a text with his explicit photos. Newmark was Minister for Civil Society and exchanged photos online, including himself in his pajamas with a journalist presented as a young activist.
Japanese Minister of Economy Yoshio Hachiro in 2011 decided to leave the department because of objections caused by his statement that the region around the damaged plant “Fukushima” was as a “ghost town”. The announcement of the resignation of the Danish Minister of Justice Morten Bødskov, however, came after the postponed visit of parliamentarians of the settlement of the hippies in Copenhagen.
Romanian labor minister resigned for “moral reasons” after discovering that under unacceptable circumstances he had employed his wife, and Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich after the plane crash that killed the then Polish President Lech Kaczyński and other 95 people near Smolensk.
Three ministers in the government of the Indian state of Karnataka resigned because watching a porn movie during a government meeting. Hungarian President Pál Schmitt left office due to a scandal over doctorate plagiarism, and German Christian Wulff after the disclosure that he had accepted a service and had been on holiday with his wife with other people’s money.
The most famous affair in the political, media, and even film history – “Watergate” in 1974 was the reason for the resignation of Richard Nixon. The republican was 37th President of the United States and left the White House after bugging devices had been discovered in the campaign headquarters of rival Democratic Party in the Watergate complex in Washington. Bugging had been organized by supporters and most responsible people of the Republican Party.
Protests for Tamara
Under the motto “Red card for Todorov” the protest will take place on 24 February in Skopje. Except for the Minister of Health Nikola Todorov, resignations will be required for the Board of Directors of the Fund – Maja Parnardzieva-Zmejkova and Xhemali Mehazi, and the members of the Board of the Fund – Angel Mitevski, Elena Trpkovska, Elizabeta Srbinovska Kostovska, Ljubisa Karanfilovski, Josif Trajkovski, Ilija Gligorov and Goran Koevski. Also, the civic initiative that is organizing the protest demands resignation of members of the primary and secondary medical board – Vladimir Popovski, Aspazija Sofijanova and Anastasika Poposka.
“Criminal liability of directors, the members of the management board and the first and second instance medical commission of the Health Insurance Fund due to reckless operation within its service. Appointing independent expert and responsible persons in the Fund, who will decide only in the interest of citizens without calculating human lives.
Appointing a competent Minister of Health, who will listen and solve patients’ problems. Quality, efficient and affordable health care for all citizens of the Republic Macedonia. Equal access of all citizens to the necessary health services. We want justice for Tamara, but also for all citizens, because we have a right to life!”, say the initiative’s protest demands.
Editor: Stojanka Mitreska