The day before yesterday, with police assistance, members of the Governing Board of Jablanica Granite Industry, recently appointed by the cantonal authorities, took control of that extremely profitable company. Bosniak members of the government, Cantonal Prime Minister Omer Macic and ministers Alija Tipura and Samir Sunagic, all of them members of the Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina (SBiH) and originally from Jablanica, insisted that the Granite Industry be declared for a company of "cantonal significance", due to, according to the charges of the members of the Jablanica municipal council, personal interests.
Both incidents, by chance falling on the same day, indicate that in Hercegovina-Neretva canton there are still two separate and parallel systems of government. The current cantonal authorities were set-up with a significant delay in the November of 2001. Although those in the know claimed that the new authorities, under pressure from the international community, would finally disband existing parallel systems of government, they turned out to be worse than all of their predecessors judging by the recent incidents. The agony of one of the most problematic cantons in Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina continues. The unemployment rate in Hercegovina-Neretva Canton is 33 percent, half of all jobs are provided by the cantonal administration, and 67 percent of the budget goes for the salaries of the cantonal administration. It is clear that for the last seven years the government of Hercegovina-Neretva Canton has been an end in itself. All that time it hasn't shown even a trace of inclination to do anything regarding the economic development of the canton, for example. Or, for example, to try to restart the industrial production. Because of all that a month ago the county organization of the Social-democratic party (SDP) demanded from the then governor Dziho to disband the government. Dziho, representative of SBiH, did not deign to even comment on their demand. For the sake of the Alliance [for Changes] in the Federation and quiet in the house, let us mention that the SDP gave up its seats in the executive authorities of Hercegovina-Neretva Canton in favor of SBiH, which was supposed in turn to appoint SDP members to majority of posts on governing boards of public enterprises. Of course, that did not happen.
At the same time, all decisions of the international community are not being implemented in Hercegovina-Neretva Canton. Although the leaders of the canton and cantonal government swear that parallel systems of government are defunct, that is not true. It hasn't so far even been possible to find a location for the joint center of county ministries. Governor and his deputy can only be seen together, therefore in the same building, during visits by foreign delegations. To maintain appearances, two sets of offices are maintained in both buildings housing cantonal authorities in Mostar.
A nice plan! In Hercegovina-Neretva Canton interests were split by SBiH (before them the Party for Democratic Action (SDA)) and the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia-Hercegovina (HDZ BiH). Who cares about increasing apathy, hopelessness, lack of perspective and departure, above all of the youth! Oh, lest I forget, the only success in the last seven years is the unification of the police force. But, what's the use, since they are getting ready for a strike. After all, their salaries come from the cantonal budget, don't they?
True, the media specified the type of the statement (naming of a person who is allegedly responsible for a rape), but it was not explained why the legal advisor of the HTV intervened and what was the explanation of the editor who ordered that the statement be censored. And the professional ethics implied that precisely these explanations be presented to the public. Instead of an explanation by HTV editors, media in Srpska opted for the statement by Desanka Radjevic that that was yet another "example of the lack of honor" and another proof of the lack of professionalism at the HTV. Therefore, almost all the media in Srpska failed the test put forward by Latinica. This incident is yet another example of the vulnerability of the media in Srpska and a demonstration of the extent they can be dangerous tools in the hands of "patriotic political forces".
Politicians also got a rash from Latinica. Thanks to dutiful media, they promoted their theory that with its choice of topic and editing of contributions Latinica got involved in the process of constitutional reform in Bosnia-Hercegovina, while Croatia, with assistance of the HTV got directly involved in internal matters of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Naturally, the mosaic was put together with assistance of statements by certain Croatian politicians who, prompted by their political reasons and speculations, discussed constitutional changes in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Media and political reflections of Latinica in Srpska are another symptom of an illness that does not allow Serbs here to face their own crimes and take a significant step away from the phrase that all crimes are committed by individuals and that "everyone must be held responsible for the crimes he may have committed". Desanka Radjevic's response to footage of prisoners in the Manjaca camp and testimonies of witnesses of horrific crimes was that there had existed camps for Serb prisoners as well and that these camps had been even more cruel. Ms. Radjevic's lack of compassion and skewed logic would not be a problem if arguments of that sort were not extremely common. And such attitude towards crimes is nothing but justification of crimes. If such political and ethical reflex is linked with the fact that in Srpska (the same applies for the rest of Bosnia-Hercegovina) until today no one has been found guilty of or indicted for war crimes, then the question who needs such a state (read: entity) is obviously justified. If Srpska is not capable of facing its own dirty past and rejecting the heavy burden of crime, whose existence it has admitted, it has neither political nor ethical justification. In other words, if the Serb nation is not capable of rejecting the policy of clemency granted for the worst imaginable crimes, it is condemned to a political and spiritual death.
Everything that was shown in Latinica should have been shown on Srpska TV a long time ago. If Srpska faced its past and future in that manner, Latinicas addressing that topic would not have existed. Just like there would not have been many similar stories, projects and acts. While our head is stuck in sand, others have the right to discuss and place difficult subjects on the agenda.
"That's an absurdity," emphasizes Drago Puzigaca, one of six Serb members who on Friday protested by leaving the first session of the Federation B-H House of Peoples.
This chamber of the Federation B-H parliament, parallel to the Council of Peoples in the Republic of Srpska, was envisaged as a state institution that should approve all the decisions made by the Federation B-H parliament. It also includes a mechanism for protection of vital national interests. All three constituent nations should have 17 representatives, while others are represented by seven delegates.
However, currently the House of Peoples has only nine Serb delegates, which prompted Serb delegates to leave the session, justifying their act by saying that national interests of Serbs in Federation B-H are not sufficiently protected in that institution.
NN: You say that as far as you are concerned the House of Peoples is illegal. If that is the case, will you participate in its work?
PUZIGACA: Soon, the SNSD will announce its stand regarding this issue, in hope of finding a solution. Besides, delegates who attended the session also said that they would request from the OHR to take a stand, so that the Serb nation could be equally represented by 17 delegates.
There are several ways in which that can be achieved. But, if the leadership of the House of Peoples is not capable of resolving the problem on its own it should seek assistance from those who can. As far as we are concerned, we shall propose a solution if they ask for our opinion.
In all of this, the question of responsibility for the newly created situation cannot be avoided. Who, in your opinion, bears responsibility for the fact that there are not enough Serbs in the House of Peoples?
Naturally, someone must bear responsibility, but I will refrain from naming names at this point. But, please, it is clear that if the Constitution is not respected, someone must be held responsible. Besides, acting president of the House of Peoples Ivo Komsic at the start of the session said that the session was being postponed due to lack of technical conditions; however, only an hour later, delegates voted! If Komsic had adjourned the session, how could delegates vote?!
Do you expect that the OHR impose a solution?
I certainly do. Namely, we must not forget that the constituent character of nations was imposed precisely by the OHR. But it seems some talked a lot about the constituent character of nations while in practice they are demonstrating their true colors.
Who are you referring to?
Those who voted to continue with the session despite the lack of technical conditions.
In our opinion, what is the best solution of this problem?
The only acceptable solution is that Serbs have the same number of representatives in the House of Peoples as Croats and Bosniaks.
Ajanovic asked the representatives of the Social-democrats (SDP), SDA and HDZ how they intended to protect interests of Croats and Bosniaks in the Republic of Srpska if they accepted discrimination of Serb representatives in the executive authorities of Federation B-H.
Addressing the representatives of the SDP, Ajanovic asked: "Why does the SDP keep quiet? Why do SDP representatives nod their heads as if they were dumb? Why don't you say that that is discrimination and unconstitutional?"
Nezavisne Novine: Why is the proposal of the House of Peoples unconstitutional?
AJANOVIC: The Federation B-H Constitution clearly states that the House of Peoples has 17 Serb representatives. Obviously, nine is not the same as 17 and three is not a third of 17. Also, the OHR cannot solve that problem by simply saying that there is no other solution and that it "must be" this way and that these nine representatives are enough to replace 17 specified by the Constitution.
Would you care to comment on the fact that none of the representatives supported your proposal to reject these candidates as unconstitutional? Some representatives of the ruling parties even stated that the House of Representatives cannot discuss if the proposals made by the House of Peoples are constitutional or not.
If not us, than who else? We decide about everything, including the changes of laws. Laws do not come from God, so that we cannot change them. We, representatives, adopt laws and modify laws. If we are supposed to confirm what one House of the Federation B-H Parliament has done and if we are aware that what they have done is against the constitution, we must act; we cannot shrug our shoulders and simply say: well, it's not up to us to say if something is or isn't constitutional. Our vote in itself decides if something is true of not; if we support an obviously unconstitutional act, that implies that from the very start this Parliament is working against the interest of the people.
You have proposed a solution for this situation, haven't you?
What happened at the first session of this House of Peoples was against the constitution and discriminated [Serb representatives], but no one offered a solution. It is a scandal that the SDA, and they are supposedly fighting for equality everywhere in Bosnia-Hercegovina, supported such a solution and that the SDP did not support my proposal to add to the agenda the debate regarding the way in which the House of Peoples violated the Federation B-H constitution. A solution for this problem can easily be found. For example, representatives in cantonal assemblies from parties which have Serb representatives as their candidates could give up their seats in favor of their Serb colleagues. We have inspected lists of candidates and such parties do exist. Our representatives in the Tuzla Canton did precisely that. That could have easily been solved. The Parliament of Bosnia-Hercegovina could adopt a change in the Election Law, so that an elected representative can give up his or her seat in favor of their colleagues from the same party. Without such a modification of the election law the procedure is long and complicated, but with the modification we propose everything could be resolved in a few days. But representatives do not want to give up their salaries. Well, why don't their parties give them those few hundreds of marks so that we can continue with work and properly protect interests of peoples and citizens?
All political parties in our country have only one purpose and goal - to take power from their political opponents in order to secure as many as possible offices, seats, appointments... This is equally true for the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the Social-democrats (SDP), the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), the Independent Social-democrats (SNSD), the Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina (SBiH)... The concern for citizens, their wellbeing, improvement of their standard of living and similar issues are only an afterthought, a necessary evil.
As is well-known by now, if was expected that at the first session of the new House of Peoples of Federation B-H all representatives named by the Election Commission would take an oath. That would have finally, almost three months after the elections, created conditions for the functioning of that legislative body. However, three Serb representatives, members of the SNSD, abandoned the session refusing to take the oath. Their excuse was that interests of the Serb nation were endangered.
Although at first it seemed they were overreacting, later it turned out they were right. Namely, nine representatives of one nation can make decisions. But, at the same time that is the smallest number of representatives of some nation that is entitled to make decisions or form a club.
That is the crux of the problem. To be more precise, the problem is in the representatives of the Serb nation who remained at the session. The six of them, without any problems with conscience took the oath and then proposed a Serb candidate for deputy president of Federation B-H.
It did not occur to them that by doing so they were violating the constitution of Federation B-H and the Election Law. Namely, the Election Law specified that the club of representatives of one nation, which is entitled to make decisions, can be formed by at least one half of the number of representatives specified by the Constitution. In this case a club can be formed by at least nine representatives, not six. Besides, the law specified that candidates for president and deputy presidents of Federation B-H can be proposed by at least one third of representatives in the club. And Serb representatives in the House of Peoples figured out that there are "as many as six" of them, out of nine named Serb representatives, which, in their interpretation was more than enough to propose Desnica Radivojevic for a deputy president of Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina. They forgot one small problem - they did not have a club and therefore could not propose a candidate for the deputy president. Besides, who cares about constitutions and laws when it comes to distribution of political offices.
Obviously the new House of Peoples has learned well the lesion from the previous one. Namely, according to the old constitution the House of Peoples had thirty representatives each of Bosniaks, Croats and "others", which included Serbs as well. However, until the end of its tenure that house only had 58 representatives. It lacked HDZ representatives from five cantons: Posavski [Sava Valley], Srednjebosanski [Central Bosnian], Hercegovina-Neretva, Zapadnohercegovacki [West Hercegovina], and Livno. In practice, since about 90 percent of all Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina live in these cantons, 90 percent of Bosnian Croats lacked their representatives in the upper house of Federation B-H Parliament. However, at the time no one cared about such trifles. The SDP, DNZ and NHI managed to find a handful of "loyal" Croats from Sarajevo, Tuzla, Bihac and Zenica (one of them was named Ibrahim [a Muslim name]; he was probably given a task to become a Croat overnight), and they very convincingly, for two years played the role of decorations in this house of parliament.
Thanks to such decorations the Alliance two years ago accomplished its goals - it divvied up the political offices. It remains to be seen if the current rulers will be equally successful.
Slavko Matic from the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) coalition is the new President of the Federation B-H House of Peoples, and deputy presidents are Vahid Heco and Spomenka Micic, proposed by the Commission for Appointments. The Club of Croat Delegates proposed Niko Lozancic from the HDZ for the president of Federation B-H, the Bosniak Club proposed Sahbaz Dzihanovic from the Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina (SBiH) for the deputy president. At the same time, three SBiH representatives from the Serb Club, according to Gavrilo Grahovac, "as one third of nine delegates" proposed Desnica Radivojevic for deputy president of Federation B-H. Although it was questioned if Radivojevic is a resident of Federation B-H and therefore eligible to be elected deputy president, most representatives supported that proposal.
Bosniak representatives in the House of Peoples of the Parliament of Bosnia-Hercegovina will be Mustafa Pamuk, Hilmo Neimarlija, Hasan Cengic, Osman Brka, and Halid Genjac, while Croat representatives will be Velimir Jukjic, Anto Spajic, Ilija Filipovic, Branko Zrno, and Tomislav Limov.
Although the Federation B-H Constitution's stipulations regarding the number of delegates in national clubs were ignored, the session started after a four hour debate in which representatives discussed if it was possible to hold a session or if that would be a drastic violation of the Federation B-H Constitution. After the old president of the House Ivo Komsic stated that sessions would be held after all, all three SNSD representatives [from the Serb club] left the session, since the Election Commission had appointed only nine out of 17 delegates in the Serb club required by the constitution. By holding a session in such circumstances, according to the SNSD representatives Drago Puzigaca, "this highest legislative body violated the Federation B-H Constitution, the internal rules of the House of Peoples, as well as the vital national interests and the right for equal representation of Serbs in Federation B-H".
Spomenka Micic from SBiH, as a representative of the Serb nation, kept repeating that the session should be held and the House of Peoples leadership elected since, according to her, any House of Peoples is better than no House of Peoples.
The chair of the Bosniak delegates club Semiha Borovac referred to the letter sent to the representatives by the OHR, in which the OHR states that "at this moment the Serb delegates club cannot have more representatives and the lack of Serb delegates cannot be an obstacle for the functioning of the House of Peoples." SNSD representative Vlatko Zrilic reacted to that statement.
"Nine cannot be the same as seventeen. Serbs are not cattle to be weighed like meat," he said and demanded a 30 minute recess after which his party would issue a public statement.
After the recess SNSD representatives did not change their attitude. They refused to support the work of the House of Peoples until the Serb delegates club gets all seventeen representatives as otherwise they would be violating the Federation B-H Constitution. SNSD representatives demanded that the session be postponed until all representatives in the Serb club were appointed. Following that, the remaining representatives voted and rejected the SNSD proposal to adjourn the session.