by Irena GAJIC
According to the Medzlis, the Ferhadija mosque is currently under a "dire threat" because it may not be visible from all parts of the city. Consequently, the Medzlis demands a return to the urban development plan from 1975, which envisaged small storied buildings for that part of the city.
Director of the Urban Development Institute of Srpska Miroslav Vujatovic concluded that his institution has proposed a plan that is acceptable for Banja Luka and a plan in which everyone can find his place.
Vladimir Glamocic, the head of the Department for Urban Develpoment, agrees with Vujatovic, and believes that the Medzlis' proposal is irrational [too expensive]. "If the infrastructure development cost exceeds $120 per square meter, that means that the development plan is not good. It does not make sense to build such objects on such expensive plots with expensive infrastructure".
The complaint filed in September of the last year by Medzlis of the Islamic Community, among other, demands that, plainly speaking, the building of the Electrical Engineering Department of the Banja Luka University, built in 1962 when all the Islamic monuments were firmly standing in the center of the city, be razed to the ground, or "displaced".
Forty years later, the Islamic Community realized that the Electrical Engineering Department building would obstruct the view of the mosque whose reconstruction has just started.
No meddling: Both of our interlocutors rejected the idea of constructing a new building for the Electrical Engineering Department (EED) on the right bank of the Vrbas river.
They emphasize that the new urban development plan envisages that the EED would expand away from Ferhadija mosque.
It is impossible to obtain a clarification of the request from the Medzlis of the Islamic Community, because no one in this organization was willing to talk for the media.
"Haven't I told you that there is no one here," we heard from the other side of the line. After three days of trying to contact someone in the Islamic Community, the response of the man who answered the phone was that he "could not make a spokesperson out of thin air".
Thus, the signatory of the request, Resad Salihovic, remained unavailable, while the Sarajevo office of the Islamic Community would not comment on the business of the Banja Luka office.
The OHR also decided to stay out of the discussion, while the spokesperson of the Banja Luka office of the OHR, Sonja Pastuovic, says that the OHR is monitoring the affair, but is not directly involved.
The Institute and Department for Urban Planning emphasize that the draft development plan is based on the fact that that part of the city center is large and valuable and should be used to cover acute needs of the city. "The authors of the plan do not share the opinion of the author of the complaint that construction of important city infrastructure in any way devalues mentioned monuments, and their locations. On the contrary, they are convinced that by being placed in the context of the city core, these monuments only increase in importance and are enriched."
The key complaint to the development plan is planned construction of high rises in the center and the already mentioned building of the EED, which would obstruct view of this part of the city.
"The existing working team 'Jug 7' is monoethnic and does not reflect the multiethnic culture of Banja Luka, while on the other hand it is highly specialized without participation of historians, art historians, artists, and scientists. Therefore, we propose that it be transformed based on the mentioned suggestions," representatives of the Medzlis were adamant.
They view plan "Jug 7" as violation of human rights and basic freedoms.
Decision: Vujatovic says that his institution has simply proposed a plan which in their opinion is the best possible for Banja Luka. "Even if we refer to history, in the past that location had about 200 stores. Our modern version envisages a business center at the same location".
Proposals have passed public discussion about the development plan and the plan is now supposed to be adopted by the city council. However, according to Glamocic, after the discussion, based on the request by the OHR and OSCE, which were also approached by the Medzlis of the Islamic Community on January 27, 2001, a meeting of representatives of the Department for Urban Development and the Islamic Community was held.
The conclusion of the meeting was that the discussion be summed up, that the Urban Development Institute, together with the city administration, one more time consider the complaints and suggestions by the Islamic Community, and respond to them in two weeks, when the final version of the proposed plan will be sent to the city assembly for adoption.