used without permission, for "fair use" only
Ours and Theirs
by Senka KURTOVIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, November 30, 2000
On Wednesday, within one hour, news agencies sent out two news, from two parts of Bosnia-Hercegovina (BH), from both entities, from the center of Banja Luka and Mostar. These news prove all the cynicism, hypocrisy, the whole set of values, that proves that for the rest of the world we are and still remain "the Balkan pub". The first news item, reported in Banja Luka by the UN mission spokesperson Alun Roberts, says that six members of the international police force working in the Prijedor region were dismissed. Because of overstepping their authority and indecent behavior. He did not specify who the dismissed individuals were, nor what would happen with them. It was only said that in the interest of the investigation about "the Prijedor case" it was for now better not to mention details. However, the whole Prijedor, and even the Krajina region, is abuzz with the story about these details. Roberts did not deny that the dismissal of the policemen was related to the raid in Prijedor nightclubs and strip bars, where foreign nationals who claimed to be forced into prostitution by the owners, were found. Several days later, one of the night club owners accused certain David, an international policemen for blackmail and racketeering. Most of the members of the international police and the SFOR, asserted the owner, were regular guests in his club. He was not squeamish and accused them of physical and sexual maltreatment of the women, who, he claimed, worked as dancers. The United Nations reported then from the other end of the state. They said they were concerned about the reports by the citizens indicating that the policemen in the Western Hercegovina canton maltreat prisoners. International Policemen could not rest in peace until they investigated the claims and found out that they were correct. They immediately criticized the Internal Affairs unit of this canton and accused it of not investigating reports about violations of human rights and asserted that it seldom appropriately punishes inappropriate behavior. Two stories about policemen, "ours" and "theirs", are only one proof of double standards. Politicians like to use the phrase about double standards when they timidly try to criticize the international community, in cases when they are aware that they deserve punishment and sanctions prescribed by the international community but do not know how to otherwise explain their impotence to the people. But, in this case we have a totally different story. The issue is not only the policemen, who were probably sent back home from Prijedor. Without punishment, without any likelihood that they would be held accountable for anything. Without sin. They finished they job in Bosnia and are leaving as innocent as angles. Just like tens of UN soldiers who during the war and even later, without any problems hit and killed a few pedestrians with huge armored troop carriers, jeeps, tanks (?!). They left. They say they were discharged from service. Disappeared. Returned to their homes, home states, where they have to bring along a shovel and a bag even when they take a dog out for a walk. If the pet defecates, they have to pick up behind it. Because the fines for "pollution" can be very steep. In some Western countries fines for walking on grass can also be steep. In Bosnia, if you run down a man your punishment may (but does not have to) be a short leave of absence or, God forbid, a trip back home. European and world standards, about which we've been lectured on almost daily basis by Western philosophers, democrats, frequently even diplomats facing retirement, are being transformed here in Bosnia into their opposite. There are numerous examples of that. For years the local authorities have been "screaming" that the international organizations are not paying retirement, social security and other benefits for their local employees; special duty free shops where, naturally, goods are not taxed, provide this city with expensive cigarettes, alcohol and clothing, glasses, perfumes; foreign workers only rarely take a look at their back yard where, as everywhere else in the world, all sorts of things can be found. After all, they've been promising to initiate an investigation within one of the [international] organizations regarding accusations of sexual harassment. Local women complained that their foreign bosses blackmail them - loose their job or perform sexual favors. This is only a rumor. The investigation hasn't been started. This is why it is necessary to talk about our and their policemen. And about our and their civil servants. And about our and their officials. About those who, apart from their passport, which is not a Bosnian passport, have no superior qualifications in comparison with the local staff. The ones who as qualified physician's assistants were recruited to work as media experts; ones who straight from American colleges found way to important offices from where they threateningly wag their finger; those who managed to make profit from the knowledge of their mother tongue (mostly English) in Bosnia, even though that cannot be done anywhere else in the world; ones who turned their clerical jobs into world class careers. We know our weaknesses and problems. We can talk about that for years. The whole world has been talking about that for years. And we are not surprised by anything anymore. We are surprised when that world even today, when it has been proven that we are not uneducated tribes, is trying to return us to the status of a tribal community. In which there is no objection and the master is always right.
Alliance as Political Project
by Dr. Slavo KUKIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, December 19, 2000
Expectations regarding the November elections were full of various wishes. On the eve of the elections the political leaders were putting together their post-election combinations. However, very few of them considered the possibilities provided by the elections. Who, for example, only a month ago could have even dreamed about secret dinners shared by Ivanic and Silajdzic. If you recall, the professor from Banja Luka stated that as far as post-electoral coalitions were concerned, he had no intention of forming one with Silajdzic. His colleague from Sarajevo was not restrained in that exchange. On the contrary. His statements indicated that his opinion regarding Ivanic was not significantly different than his opinion regarding other politicians in "the Serb pigsty". And professors have lately not only been dining together but also, it seems, initiated daily contacts. The question is whether this happened based on their own will. Who would, besides, as late as yesterday, predict the "turnaround" in the minds of great leaders. And that "turnaround", at least judging by their rhetoric, is nevertheless taking place. Immediately after the closure of the voting booths, Alija [Izetbegovic], who knows why, launched the idea about the grand coalition in the Federation. His Croat friend [Ante Jelavic] had nothing against that proposal. However, it seems that the HDZ's good will does not end there. On the contrary. According to Dr. Covic, the party does not have anything against the idea that representatives of the Croat people in the executive authorities are members of all parties representing Croats. On the contrary. He says that experts, therefore competent and capable individuals, should be elected to the executive authorities. Provided, my remark of course, that they respect instructions from Travnik and Tuzla. Serves you well, doctor. I wonder, however, what will happen if the principle of competence puts his party in an unfavorable position? For example, in the situation that it is not capable of offering as many competent people as provided by its election results? If, in other words, it turns out that competence is outside the HDZ, will, I wonder, Dr. Covic then persist on competence as a main criterion? Or, will he change his mind and, for example, insist on a new interpretation of competence. Or possibly on the total rejection of that "silliness". If one forgets previous titillating details, the post-election maze, objectively offers several potential exits. It is a different issue how realistic these outcomes really are. For example, people frequently calculate with the Alliance for Changes as the most likely project. The reason for that is the international community's support for the Alliance. But there are many reasons outside that framework. The idea of the Alliance, let me remind the readers, is based on the gathering at all levels of government, of all non-nationalist groups around the SDP. In principles, there is nothing one could object to that. But, I am not entirely convinced that the platform on which the gathering is based can be implemented. Namely, I am not convinced that certain candidates for the Alliance are not nationalists themselves. And not only nationalists, but also convinced nationalists, which nurture their nationalism in a, true, rather subtle manner. However, let us ignore my doubts for now. Is the Alliance a realistic project? Professor Komsic's opinion is illustrative in this context. I must concede, he stated, that I am not convinced that it will be easy to put it together. And Komsic, for the sake of reminder, is one of the SDP leaders. And I believe that he is truly interested in the success of the Alliance. But I also believe that his skepticism is not accidental. On the contrary, it is based on very good reasons. Whether we want to admit that or not, the Alliance is a political mishmash within which it is very difficult to align mutually frequently conflicting interests. Is it possible to force Ivanic on the state level to stay in Silajdzic's company, especially after recent Silajdzic's attacks on the Republic of Srpska, which is a holy grail for the president of the PDP? Is it on the other hand, possible to win over Silajdzic for a "marriage" with Ivanic, even under the assumption that he can be rewarded by the story about himself as the joint candidate for the Bosniak member of the BH Presidency? But, is his agreement to form a strategic partnership with Lagumdzija's "Commies" in the Federation also likely? How, besides, is it possible to find a middle ground between the principle of fairness and political ambitions of the leaders of small parties? Without them, lest we forget, the Alliance is not possible. That, as a problem, was recently pointed out by the academician Filipovic. And he, why not stress that, is the trademark of the BH liberals. Because of the fear of possible foul play, to which small parties can be exposed, he insists that all the details be sorted out in advance. He says, it must be known what would be the program of such a formation, who would participate in it, to what political boundary and with what goals. Similar interventions do not seem accidental at all, as far as I am concerned. They can really be based on fear that in the trade between the "big" parties the obligations with respect to the small ones will be forgotten. But, that intervention is also a warning. Without a cake, that would satisfy their ambitions, the small parties will not pull the same cart. On the contrary. They can use their influence to produce a completely different outcome of the match. And who can then say that skepticism regarding the possibility of the formation of the Alliance is baseless? However, I do not count myself among the opponents of the non-nationalist political block. On the contrary. Nevertheless, I am personally inclined to the conviction that the road to it is almost impassable. And even then, to tell the truth, that would not be a huge step forward. On the contrary, that would be only the first step towards the constitution of the Alliance. Its future functioning, it must be admitted, is a totally different issue. And the issue that, in my opinion, will not be an easy one to deal with. But at the same time, I do not think that the Alliance will last.
by Dr. Slavo KUKIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, January 1, 2001
Six months ago I did not hide my enthusiasm regarding the new winds in the city on the Neretva river. The start of the last summer in the previous millennium was, let me remind the readers, greeted with the new changes in the local leadership. The current mayor got yet another companion from the ranks of the Croats in Mostar. This companion, although from the HDZ's deck of cards, differed in many ways from all the previous ones. Among other in the in no way gentle manner with which he dealt with his party in his first speech upon assuming the new office. Even today I recall his criticism of the HDZ as a rigid party. To me, I have to admit, that seemed rather shocking, as well as encouraging. However, I also recall his vision of Mostar as a normal city without civilisational and ideological walls that used to be erected in it in the past. Those who want to do so should live in that city in their own houses and apartments. And, naturally, they should return to them, and be provided conditions for a dignified life. It is impossible not to recall the first appearances of the new city duo. In a soccer game the city government played against Mostar journalists. At the Spanish square, a big concert gathered for the first time after years of separation and in spite of bomb threats the Mostar youths, from both the east and west side of the Neretva river. Finally, the mayor [Orucevic, a Bosniak] announced that he was a fan of Zrinjski [Croat soccer club in Mostar]. And he publicly demonstrated that by his appearance at the next soccer game held under Bijeli Brijeg [white hill, Zrinjski's stadium]. I must admit that all of that seemed like a fairytale. That is why I personally wrote that it seemed that Mostar was returning home. Unfortunately, that was only a momentary flash of hope. And perhaps even a herald of false hopes. The city government suddenly got tired of initiated sport gatherings. Instead of at the Spanish square, or some other square, concerts continued separately, each one on his side of the river. And the mayor himself, to make things worse, forgot where Bijeli Brijeg is. And so on. Someone may object that I am displaying unnecessary impatience. The justification would, naturally, be that after the destruction experienced by Mostar, it is not realistic to expect miracles overnight. Unfortunately, that is not the case. On the contrary. If one analyses the recent statement of the Mostar outpost of the Federation ombudsman, it is impossible, in my opinion, to avoid the conclusion that the implementation of property laws in the city is below average. Besides, out of eight thousand requests for the return of property, less then ten percent have been processed. The Ombudsman does not indicate the ethnic structure of those who managed to return to their homes. However, I am convinced that proportionally the largest number of these returns falls on the residents of Mostar who are neither Croats nor Bosniaks. If the data regarding the ethnic structure of the returns were available, they would show, I believe, that the number of returns of Croats to eastern and Bosniaks to western Mostar is significantly below the citywide average. I agree that the criticism should not only be addressed to the leading duo. But it seems to me that they share responsibility for these developments. Besides, six months after their first photo op together, the city, that they lead, has two budgets. One, controlled by Safet Orucevic, and the other one controlled by his good friend Tomic. That symbolizes continuous logic of division, in the same manner as six months ago. In other words, residents of Mostar still, as during all these years, pay for two information bureaus. These two offices are supposed to be a sign of equality. And in reality, and everyone understands that, they are in function of the promotion of their two bosses, as well as a sign of division, the same that six months ago the two of them condemned to oblivion. In mid December the world received the news that Mostar for the first time had a single ceremony for setting up of street Christmas decorations. I sad at the time, for Deutsche Welle, I recall, that that was a good sign, providing that the information was correct. However, the residents of Mostar know that even this did not go easily. On the contrary. Neither was the city decorated at the same time, nor were identical symbols used on both sides of the river. Therefore, the world was deceived. In Mostar both sides continued to do as they see fit. In the western part they did everything to greet the Christmas eve in style, and in eastern Mostar the decorations were put up, claim detractors, a day after Christmas. In general, New Year's eve celebrations are organized outdoors. But, in principle, even in crazy Rio de Janeiro, that is done in one spot. However, Mostar this year had two celebrations. Judging by chosen locations, one was meant for Croats, the other one for Bosniaks. To make sure that, God forbid, residents of Mostar do not get together, hang out, make friends. Nevertheless, according to what I've heard, they did do that. There was a spontaneous celebration in the Avenue. According to some estimates, as many as 20,000 residents from all parts of the city gathered there. Although the BH public mostly does not know about that. The correspondent of the state television, judging by the main news program broadcast on the first day of the new year, found it more interesting to show to its viewers footage from a local hotel. And not only that. The news totally ignored the largest Mostar celebration in years. And that is undeniably, a huge journalistic omission. But, honestly, that is also a sign of a general atmosphere. Also shaped by the local "Gods" in Mostar. Or at least some of them.
Translated on March 15, 2001