Serbs censure minister

February 21, 1997

SERBIA's education minister has come under fire for his stance towards students' pro-democracy protests within days of taking office in a government reshuffle.

Belgrade University's Committee for the Defence of Democracy asked minister Jovo Todorovic how he dared "to head the education system in Serbia, which is made up of your colleagues, with whom you disagree and who disagree with you?"

Professor Todorovic, dean of the school of organisational sciences, was one of the few academics who had not supported the students.

In a statement issued via Beta independent press agency, the committee condemned the appointment, saying it was the latest in a series of government moves "bringing the education system in Serbia to rock bottom, thus destroying the future of the country, and the future of young people in it".

The reshuffle was approved by the Serbian assembly (parliament) the same day that it approved the proclamation recognising as official the results of some of the November local elections which had been annulled by the government, thus triggering the protests.

But student demonstrations have continued because not all the results have been accepted and other demands, including a call for the resignation of rector Dragun Velickovic and student-rector Vojin Djurdjevic and a probe into the election annulment, have not been met. But there is a time factor: if students do not return to classes by February 24 they will have to repeat the academic year.

Belgrade University deans said last week that the main student demand had been "justified" and expressed the hope that this would pave the way to a full recognition of the "citizens' will" as expressed in the elections.

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