NN: In the work of the house of representatives of the Bosnia-Hercegovina parliament there are numerous instances of discord which were also expressed at the last session upon the adoption of proposed laws. Does this constitute a serious crisis in the work of this representative body?
DERETIC: I would not call it a crisis but the consequence of a conflict between two different approaches to the Dayton agreement. The first is pro-Dayton and it is represented by the Serb representatives from the Republic of Srpska. We are advocating the respect for that international agreement and everything else that grew out of it, first and foremost the constitution. We believe that the best solutions should be found through democratic discourse and should respect that which is crucial to everyone: peace, human rights, the constitutional character of nations, right of ownership, political and all other rights foreseen by the highest international standards. The second position is anti-Dayton and it is supported by political options from the Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina. For the greatest number of federal parties, the Dayton agreement only represented a pause, that is, a welcome breather. At first, all those parties swore by the Dayton agreement, only to quickly afterwards have everyone get on their own soapbox and begin advocating either revision or open changes to the Dayton peace agreement. The Croats because they feel overwhelmed in comparison with their federal partners, and the Bosniaks because they cannot let go of the attempt to dominate the other two nations in BH, even though it is well known how such goals must end. We hope that the representatives of the international community will comprehend what is happening in time and bring an end to such attempts. A BH of three nations can survive only as a state with two entities and three constitutive peoples. The well-known platitude about the principle of "one man - one vote" represents an attempt to dominate and create unrest in BH.
NN: In what ways, concretely, are the misunderstandings of those, as you said, different concepts apparent?
DERETIC: I would cite just one example, the voting on the proposed law on the border patrol. Great misconceptions and dilemmas were promoted by the international community itself because in the Bonn declaration it is decidedly said that the Police is under the jurisdiction of the entity, while after that, in the Madrid declaration, the formation of a common border patrol is proposed even though it is in conflict with the BH constitution. Regardless of the fact that border patrols already exist in the entities, a new one is formed which enlarged the already oversized administrative apparatus; no one to date has even mentioned how much it is all going to cost and it will cost, I am certain, a great deal. The formation of a common border patrol is being justified to the people as a move that is supposed to prevent smuggling and crime. Well, the US is the largest country on the planet, of course, as far as material resources are concerned, and despite this they have the most smuggling and crimes there despite of the fact that they have a well-developed border patrol. There isn't a country in the world in which smuggling is not flourishing. I am convinced that this problem could be solved by a different organization of existing border patrols and better cooperation of the police of both entities and their highest officials, which would be beneficial to all peoples in BH.
Also, by February 15, a draft of the new permanent election law is supposed to be adopted which is second only to the BH constitution in terms of significance. In fact, we have received two drafts of the election law. The first was proposed by the Office of the High Representative (OHR); the second was proposed by the Serb Democratic Party. At the last session, the Serb representatives from RS, with great reservations, chose to support the proposal of the OHR. The first criticism was related to the essence of the matter, because this draft is foreseen as a solution to all major problems, from the election of the highest officials of BH to the local elections. According to the Dayton agreement, the permanent election law should only pertain only to the election of representatives to the BH parliament and the members of the presidency; everything else is supposed to be handled by the entities according to their respective legislative norms.
On the other hand, certain new categories, which are in contradiction with the RS constitution, appear in the draft. According to the OHR proposal, for example, it is foreseen that the length of a mandate in RS is to be four years while according to the Srpska constitution, the length of the mandate is five years. Likewise, OHR foresees the existence of a deputy chairman in the common presidency while this function is not foreseen by the BH constitution. Therefore, it is completely justified to pose the question how this legislative act can be adopted, since the draft of the election law is just that, when it is not in harmony with the highest legislative act, the constitution, to which all legislative acts are subject. Therefore, if we adopted such a proposal, we would have to harmonize the RS constitution with a legislative act which is absolutely unacceptable.
Regardless of these criticisms, we voted for this proposal but representatives from the Federation and Bosniak representatives from RS voted against it.
NN: What is cooperation between the Serb and Bosniak representatives from the Republic of Srpska in the BH parliament like?
DERETIC: Of the 14 representatives from RS, three are Bosniaks and they never sit with the Serb representatives nor seek agreement with us. They vote following the lead of the Coalition for a Unified and Democratic BH, and we see them only when we are picking up our salaries. That, in general, represents a tragic picture of relations at the level of BH as a whole.
NN: At a recent session of the house of representatives, you became involved in a verbal duel with representative Sejfudin Tokic. Does this constitute a more serious conflict?
DERETIC: No. I think that everything in connection with that "duel" was blown out of proportion. During the debate on the proposed law on public documents, I proposed that the law be amended with a preamble, in order to indicate on the basis of which legal act it was being enacted; in addition to this, I requested that every public document, in addition to the name of BH, include the full name of the entity. At that moment, Mr. Tokic took the floor and said that there are "subscribers" from the ranks of the Serb representatives from RS who are attempting to obstruct every proposal or draft law. This prompted me to reply and to emphasize that there was no obstruction involved, but simply the wish that certain proposed laws achieve an acceptable legal format. In further communication, Mr. Tokic reacted tactlessly, mentioning my family name in a negative context, as a result of which I warned both him and the president that because of the dignity of the body which we represent such comments cannot be tolerated, requesting at the same time that the session be interrupted; the president accepted this and declared a one hour pause.
NN: Representatives from the ranks of the Serb people, it seems, despite the fact that they come from different parties, are cooperating well in the BH parliament. Why cannot this harmony be achieved in state institutions of Srpska?
DERETIC: The 11 of us come from eight different political parties and we make every decision on the basis of consensus. That does not mean we are unanimous in everything but after joint discussions, sometimes very noisy ones, we always adopt one position and we all support that one position. To date there have not been any breaks in the ranks except for one instance, in December of 1998, when the co-chairman was being elected. At that time I did not raise my hand in favor of Mr. [Svetozar] Mihajlovic, not because I was opposed to his election, but because Mr. Silajdzic was to be elected with him as another co-chairman in the council of ministers. I was convinced that such a man could not perform this function and advocated separate votes for Mihajlovic and for Silajdzic. Unfortunately, my proposal was not adopted, even though most recent events have shown that I was right.
With respect to the second half of your question, I must note that the polarization in the state institutions of RS is not new; it dates back to the beginning of 1998. I will be the happiest of men when decisions in the RS parliament are reached by a majority of representatives who now belong to both parliamentary blocs.
NN: What is your position in connection with vice-president Mirko Sarovic's attempt to assume the prerogatives of the president of the republic and the decision of the high representative to challenge Sarovic?
DERETIC: The Radical Party of RS, of which I am secretary general, invited Mr. Sarovic to assume the duties of the president of RS eight months ago. Unfortunately, he did not do so then; and now, when he has decided on this step, he has not gotten the green light from the high representative. This is only a sign that, no matter how much we want something or not, we must take into account the fact that besides our highest officials there exists someone else, someone from the outside, who is able to control the decisions of public officials, including the RS vice-president, by his decisions on the basis of Annex 10 of the Dayton agreement.
NN: One can hear with increasing frequency in RS that the representatives of the international community draw on their powers only when they wish to do so, as in the cases of Poplasen and Sarovic, while in connection with the well-known declarations of Silajdzic and Izetbegovic about the revision of the Dayton agreement, the international mediators have stated that this is not within their jurisdiction. What is your opinion on this?
DERETIC: There is a double standard existing in BH. You have just mentioned the most recent examples. We expected that Silajdzic's statement would provoke the condemnation of political parties in both entities, and especially, we expected a reaction by the high representative. However, he reacted very mildly, emphasizing that this was a matter of Silajdzic's personal opinion, and that he had no intention of reacting to it in some other way. This gives us the right to state that such a display on the part of Mr. Silajdzic was directed by someone, because he is obviously appearing as someone's spokesperson. Officials from the BH Federation have made similar statements in the past and were not condemned by the representatives of the international community. Their proposals were very quickly transformed into laws, such as the one on the border patrol; the proposals regarding the formation of a common army, etc. are also well known.
NN: Consequently, can we say that at present a process of the redefinition and voiding of the Dayton agreement is under way?
DERETIC: I am deeply convinced that behind the scenes important things are happening which we will soon have to confront. Displays of this sort do not contribute to the reduction of tension but instead constitute a pouring of oil on the fire. Despite this, we are convinced that changes to the Dayton agreement, whose primary purpose was the cantonization of BH, will not occur any time soon. We are, also, signatories of that peace agreement and as long as it exists we will abide by it. Only when it no longer serves a purpose and when others do not abide by it, we will offer other options to the people in RS; we have this right.
NN: As an attorney, how do you comment on the most recent events in the BH constitutional court?
DERETIC: What happened at the most recent session of the constitutional court only illustrates the general situation in BH. I will mention that the BH constitution did not regulate in what manner decisions are made in the constitutional court; it only indicates how it is to be constituted. Since Mr. Arsovic and Mr. Popovic did not participate in the decision-making process, the decisions of the court cannot be valid. This is confirmed by an example from last year when one of the justices from the BH Federation was excluded at a moment when voting on certain issues was taking place; the constitutional court immediately ceased its work until the selection of a new justice. I believe that the same action should be taken in this case.
NN: What are the chances of the party of which you are a member at the upcoming municipal elections and how true are the statements of your political opponents that at the previous elections a large number of voters voted for you only because of the name of your party, which is very similar to other, larger parties of Radical predisposition, first and foremost, the Serb Radical Party?
DERETIC: The Radical Party of RS is an authentic political party existing in the entire region of Srpska. It does not spring from either Belgrade, nor from the ranks of the international community; on the other hand, by our political predisposition we are considerably different than the Serb Radical Party. We are a national party, but not a party of vulgar nationalists; we nurture enlightened nationalism. The Radical Party of RS is also a democratic party and we are always open for discourse with any political option.
At the following elections, we have presented our candidates in 26 municipalities, although we have 31 municipal boards. We expect good results, even though at this moment it is too early to say something more about this, but considering our infrastructure in those cities and what we are offering to citizens, we are optimists. In this manner all insinuations and dilemmas whether we, as the newest political party on the eve of the 1998 elections, really received 28,000 votes because of possible confusion by the voters or because of our program, will be removed.
NN: Earlier you supported the Unity Coalition. Has the Radical Party of the Republic of Srpska changed its opinion in the meanwhile?
DERETIC: You are correct. In the beginning we supported the Unity Coalition, during the period when they, that is, their government, achieved evident results. With time, certain faults appeared in the work of that government and the moment that we assessed that the results were below the minimum which could be tolerated, we clearly and unequivocally withdrew our support from that coalition. Currently we do not support any option even though we would like it if in our further work the Radical Party of RS might become the link between both options currently existing in the RS parliament. The moment when that link is realized, we are deeply convinced that conditions in Srpska will stabilize. Our only and basic choice is the Republic of Srpska. Therefore, whoever is working for the benefit of RS will absolutely have the support of the Radical Party of RS.
NN: Less than two weeks ago, an unknown perpetrator set on fire the automobile belonging to Goran Zmijanac, one of the vice-presidents of the Radical Party of RS. Do you have any idea who is behind this act?
DERETIC: Mr. Zmijanac is a man who is very exposed in politics, especially in Prijedor; he is the president of the Serb bloc of representatives in the municipal administration of Prijedor. His statements were always very clear, to the point and direct. Because of this he has received many direct and indirect threats but at this moment I would not want to prejudice this barbaric act. The moment the perpetrators are discovered, the Radical Party of RS will issue a special public statement. Their wish is to make the work of this man and those similar to him, who are advocating democratic process, impossible by means of such backward actions in Prijedor and all of RS.
NN: Since you mentioned Prijedor, let us mention the opinion of a significant number of residents of that city who believe that the largest city in the Mt. Kozara region is a dead end of RS because so many things in it are not functioning. Considering the great disagreement among the parties which are active in it, does any hope exist for this city?
DERETIC: It must be Serb karma. There are many parties in Prijedor whose actions are diametrically opposed. The Radical Party of RS will participate in the next elections with a clear plan for the benefit of this city and its residents. We will hold a public discussion and offer several alternatives, and citizens will decide on them with their votes. In any case, the existing situation is extremely pessimistic. The city is not lit at night; there are serious problems in health, the city water supply, garbage pickup, heating, etc. A significant number of residents of Prijedor have already lost confidence in the current government.
Finally, I would like to emphasize the well-known fact regarding the specific structure of the Prijedor economy, based on two mammoth companies, RZR Ljubija and Celpak. The whole economy and infrastructure of the city was once supported by these two companies. They are now only shadows of what they once were and, objectively, we cannot expect their quick recovery and renewed functionality. Because of this we will call on the citizens of the Prijedor municipality to vote for people, without regard for their political option, who are capable of pulling our economy out of the existing crisis. To date we have had directors who only thought about their own functions. They were predisposed to the political option which was currently in power and they always had a selection of party membership cards in their pockets. Therefore, we will support every economist, every expert, who is capable of leading the local, stumbling companies on to the right path.