interview by Igor GAJIC
NOVI REPORTER: What is your explanation for the fact that the SDS is not a leading political party for the first time since the signing of the Dayton Agreement?
CAVIC: I would not agree with you. The SDS is still a leading political party, but not to the extent it was in the past. The SDS has a slight lead with respect to the SNSD if votes cast for local councils and mayors in all of Srpska are taken into account. Let me be frank, the SDS and SNSD are now neck to neck in Srpska. Of course, their growth in support should be put in the context of a smaller turnout, which makes the jump in the number of their voters more significant. The SDS has lost 30,000 votes with respect to the last election, in 2002. This is a notable fact, sufficiently significant to prompt internal changes within the SDS. There are several explanations for such results. It happened because of external pressure, various condemnations of the party over the last year and a half; claims that the party has been criminalized, corrupted etc.... As consequence of such assertions 49 people were dismissed just before the election after the conclusion of the work of the commission auditing financial operations of the SDS in an attempt to establish whether the alleged network for support of indicted war criminals is being financed by the SDS. The commission established existence of some irregularities, but did confirm that the SDS did not finance any support networks from its bank accounts and, naturally, sanctions followed: the SDS was denied the right to use funds it is supposed to receive from the state budget and which constitute 99 percent of the funds the party has at its disposal. We entered the election campaign totally hobbled. People who were dismissed, whatever someone may say about them, were mostly highly respected in their towns, from Trebinje to Banja Luka.
Mr. Milan Grubac, from Trebinje, blames you for the failure in the local elections, calling to the return of policies from the time when Dragan Kalinic led the SDS. Does that imply new internal struggles within the SDS and questioning of your authority to lead the party?
I don't think do. I highly respect Mr. Grubac, and, naturally, everyone has the right to his own opinion. The period in which I serve as its president is unprecedented in the history of the SDS. To cut the long story short, a forest has been cut and only one tree is left standing and that tree is now supposed to pretend to be a forest. I could not pretend to be a forest for those two months and my key task was to resuscitate the party to bring it back to life and make sure it can continue to function. After numerous dismissals the party had to quickly fill its Chief Board and constitute a presidency and make sure it can function in totally changed circumstances. I did what I could, and that's most that could be done. Whether that maximum should be praised of condemned will be decided by the party congress, which will take place in November.
What preoccupies you more these days - consolidation of the SDS or problems facing Srpska?
I work full time exclusively on issues related to the office of the president of Srpska. I do not mix my two jobs. My party-related activities are separate from my activities related to the presidency. My goal and the goal of the Presidency of the SDS, which we adopted a few days ago, includes several items. We shall hold a meeting of the Chief Board at which we shall make appropriate decisions regarding the financing of the party as currently we are facing tremendous financial difficulties. We also face the problem that many are afraid to be publicly linked with the SDS as they fear that Paddy Ashdown may bar them from public functions in the future. Today, to be in the SDS means to constantly be someone's target, while you don't know who is targeting you; it means to be accused without the right to defend oneself; it means to be dismissed and denied the right to salary and to work. The past has shown all of that. At the extraordinary congress we have to do several things. We have to elect a new president and deputy president as I cannot properly carry out my duties given my office of the president of Srpska. Besides, we have to change the organization. At that congress we shall change the statute and call new elections at all levels within the party leading to a new congress that should be held next year, but based on the new statute and the new organization, with a new political document about the political profile of the party. These elections should take place in the spring of 2005.
Do you think that that sort of reform would save the SDS from being a target in the future?
I want to make sure that the party obtains an acceptable profile. We should not kid ourselves, the key problem of the SDS is the relationship with the international community, which is unable to trust the SDS. The lack of credibility with the international community creates problems for us every time we win an election and we have actually been forced to trade legitimacy we earn in elections for a portion of legitimacy we need with the international community forging partnerships with parties that have that sort of legitimacy. So, what has happened? We traded our legitimacy earned in elections while we haven't earned legitimacy with the international community. In that case, why take part in such a trade? We must address the issue of our credibility with international factors, and if we are unable to change the current situation everyone must understand that we won't take part in that game. We shall say: "There you go, gentlemen, you with legitimacy with the international community should get together and resolve these difficult issues and we'll be the opposition and monitor your moves; we'd especially love to ask you what it's like to deal with immense problems while having opposition breathing at your neck". I want to break the illusion that the SDS is in some sense an organization whose primary purpose is to financially take care of its members. We'll put an end to that story. The SDS is a political organization, and these folks who swear that they only want to power so that they can help the people, let them prove that. And let them still blame the SDS for everything, but at least it will be clear - the SDS is in opposition and it can only be blamed for being the SDS and nothing else.
It is obvious that currently the ruling coalition and the Government as an embodiment of the coalition is losing support. Is there any likelihood that the SDS may reconsider its support for the current ruling coalition in the parliament?
Relations between key political parties in Srpska have become very entangled and wrought with difficulty, for which the SDS bears very little responsibility, so that it's difficult to see how these relations could be improved. I shall put an end to the practice that we waste our legitimacy with our people while others rule. We don't need that. We've done everything to earn legitimacy with the international community. Because of our attempts to earn legitimacy abroad we've been punished by the international community, which failed to appreciate our efforts. They failed to recognize that our role in the process of accession to the EU, NATO and opening of various positive processes, was positive and creative. If we lack credibility with international players, on the other hand, our partners, regardless of who they are, exploit that lack of credibility to take over all instruments of power and tell us that international factors do not want us. In that case, why should we participate? We'll allow those with credibility to assume full responsibility and show what they're worth.
That's your opinion. Do you think that the rest of the party will agree with you?
I'm not saying that the SDS will not consider different options. It will. Above all we have to send a strong message to everyone, both the international community and political factors in Srpska. I personally have had enough of being a doormat. That means that if the party supports the option of full withdrawal from power, the result will be resignations of the president of the parliament, all ministers in the government, resignations of people at key functions everywhere. That will be our conclusions. A full withdrawal to the opposition, except for offices to which SDS representatives were directly elected: the Srpska parliament, house of representatives of the BH parliamentary assembly, BH Presidency and the president of Srpska.
Would that not boil down to deliberately provoking a political crisis and is that a trump card in the hands of people such as Sulejman Tihic and others who want that the Republic of Srpska simply disappear?
Everyone keeps saying we should abandon power. The moment we announce that we shall do precisely that, they accuse us of destroying Srpska. What is the problem? The SNSD and PDP should get together and sort everything out. They should form a government of the "forces of the future and prosperity". They say: "we don't want to have anything with the forces of darkness; forces of darkness to the opposition". We agree. Let the "forces of the future and light" take care of all the problems.
You currently participate in a coalition government with one of these "forces of light" - the PDP?
Yes, we do, of course, and I have explained why. We lack credibility with the international community.
Could you, for example, again explain relations with the SNSD until the start of the election campaign for the local elections, giving some specific examples?
First of all, as the president of the republic I have the obligation to maintain correct relations with everyone and I will stick to that regardless. I do not have the right to sit here and mull over who said what about me. I am not a person who would tomorrow call new elections because my party is to stop participating in power. Create a different majority, set up a government, define goals and respond to difficult economic and social problems, pull out your magic wands and resolve overnight pensions and everything else in the coming two years. Sort all of that out, arrest criminals, thieves, scoundrels, resolve difficult problems and defend the current status of the Republic of Srpska. Because, as you say, the SDS is not able to do that. Well, if that is the case, then gentlemen take responsibility and finish the job and we shall be where you'd like to see us, in the opposition benches. Now, in opposition we shall naturally have space for more serious political activities. If we do not have credibility with the international community, our rightful place is in the opposition. From the point of view of a chief of a political party I do not want talks with either Milorad Dodik or Mladen Ivanic, in which we would ignore the will of the electorate expressed in regular elections. There's no reason to go there. Today the biggest entertainment is speculations with various lists and who put whose name on the list. Essentially, those lists are "populated" by members and sympathizers of the SDS. Everyone is falling head over heels every time some new list is announced, trying to place political opponents on it, and now a new list is expected for December. Do we need any of that? Why would we do that? No, we shall nicely withdraw from power and say: "please, gentlemen, you with credibility, do the job". That is one of realistic options. They do not need elections. They can form a government, they have credibility; they can figure out who will cover which ministries; they can create a concept, address all problems, and the SDS will remain in opposition. They want that, they can get it, and as far as I am concerned, that is the least problem. So far we have avoided taking that step precisely because we wanted to preserve political stability in Srpska. But, we have been criticized in the election campaign for the local elections precisely because of that.
Would you care to comment on the cooperation with the SDA in the government of Srpska, and in the parliament of Srpska, while on the other hand their leader Sulejman Tihic keeps attacking the main planks of what is supposed to be your program. What has happened with the announced replacements of three ministers from the SDA. It seems that they were exploited for the election campaign, as besides one minister [who was replaced] the other two could not be dismissed without a confidence vote in the parliament of Srpska?
The moment I assumed the leadership of the party I clearly told the Prime Minister of Srpska and the president of the PDP that the SDS had given them our 26 votes in the parliament, and everything on top of that, to the necessary majority of 42 representatives, or 43, or 50, is their problem. The SDA is not SDS's problem. Gentlemen, please make sure the government functions. I sincerely think so. If the government does not enjoy support of 42 or 43 representatives in the parliament it falls and that's the end of the story.
Would the SDS again support Mr. Mikerevic's government?
I cannot answer that question as it does not depend on me only.
As the president of the SDS, what would you advise your party in that case?
It does not make sense if a government fails to pass a vote of confidence in the parliament, that the same person attempts to put together a new government. It would be ridiculous to twice vote on confidence in the same government.
I am referring to a reconstruction of the government. It is enough that one minister be replaced that the government must seek a new vote of confidence in the parliament, according to the constitution.
I disagree. The constitution does not say that anywhere. For example, the Party for BH (SBiH) is clear regarding its views: Bosnia-Hercegovina without entities. The SDP and SDA share their view on that issue. Essentially, Lagumdzija, Tihic and Silajdzic have identical demands. That's their national concept. At the time there is quite a lot of talk about a change of the constitution, everyone is throwing wood on the fire, trying to produce as much smoke as possible. At issue here are not individual policies advocated by the SDA, SDP or SBiH, but a single national policy that obviously enjoys strong support abroad.
In that context, what do you think about Mr. Ivanic's and Mr. Paravac's astounding apathy in the face of attacks on the Republic of Srpska?
I would not call that apathy. There are responses to Tihic's activities and initiatives, some institutional, other political. Of course, it is to be expected that people in joint institutions, the Council of Ministers and the Presidency of BH, put such initiatives on the agenda and discuss them. And that is a more efficient response than political reactions. I give political reactions to Tihic's statements. I cannot give institutional response since as the president of Sprska I cannot do so.
But Mr. Ivanic and Mr. Paravac can.
They can, in a way. I've personally talked with Mr. Paravac and explained that I did not understand how it was possible that Mr. Tihic go to the UN annual assembly and there deliver a speech in which he practically assumed the attitude of the president of BH, expressed his own opinion, which is contrary to the constitution of BH. I asked Paravac why they hadn't created a platform for Tihic's speech at the UN at one of the meetings of the presidency. Tihic had to have an in advance written speech, approved by the other two members of the presidency. Such a meeting hadn't been held.
How did Mr. Paravac respond?
He said - it happened. But that must not "happen". It was an embarrassment for all of us. A man who represents the country delivered a speech at the UN saying that his country was going to the dogs. That is ridiculous and sickening, just like Tihic exploited the chance to meet with Sacirbegovic, who has been indicted for embezzlement in BH and has recently been released from prison. A big embarrassment to which the presidency should have reacted. The same matter should have been discussed at one of the meetings of the Council of Ministers.
Unofficially, you were number 50 on the last list of dismissed officials [which included 49 names]. Supposedly, your statement regarding Srebrenica that you had given immediately before the dismissals saved you. Do you think that the international community will resort to the same method if there are no arrests of indicted war criminals?
That is speculation. There are different versions. I've heard all sorts of stuff. That the list initially included less than 49 names and that I added the rest; then that mine was the first name on the list and that I was removed after making the statement about Srebrenica... It's all nonsense. I am not concerned with what the high representative will do. That's his problem. If we were to summarize two years of my tenure at this position, it is obvious that they passed in a difficult political struggle. Not only my attitude with respect to Srebrenica, but also with respect to the "Orao" affair, intelligence center 410, commission for the reform of defense, joint statements with ambassador Prosper, Carla Del Ponte, and much, much more. I did not act under pressure from Paddy Ashdown in any of these cases, nor will I do so in the future. I will act according to my beliefs, according to the constitution, and that means that I shall strive to preserve Srpska and make sure that we achieve as good a position as possible in various circles that decide about our fate. And decisions about our fate do not depend only on us, but also on what is commonly called the international community, i.e. great powers. What's my impression of the high representative? He is an equivalent of a storm, a lightning that strikes indiscriminately. If I was on some lists, placed and then removed, what will people say if my name tops some future list? Let me tell you a story. It's an interpretation [sic] of a conversation between two men, one of whom allegedly has good contacts with certain international circles. One of the dismissed SDS members asked him whether he could do anything to be taken off the list. And he responds: "Listen, I cannot take anyone off the list, but if you want to add anyone, that's easy". That is our reality. All of Bosnia-Hercegovina (BH) has become a territory crawling with sycophants and spies. We have become a society in which every person spies on everyone else and their only fear is whether Paddy Ashdown will cross their name off. This is a society full of political fear. And fear makes all threats seem plausible. People overcome by political fear are solely concerned with making sure that they are not punished by the international community and in that they sacrifice their political backbone and political views. Recently I watched Federation BH TV. It's horrendous what kind of show they had on the topic of the commission for the reform of police, especially regarding the current Minister [of Police in Srpska] Matijasevic and director of police [in Srpska] Njegus. The show concluded that there would be a single police organization of the BH level, that entity police forces would be abolished, and anyone daring to oppose that would be dismissed. Therefore, the Federation BH TV delivers wishes, various Bosniak circles deliver their wishes, and these wishes are fulfilled by someone with power. That is the reality of this unfortunate country.
You've mentioned Mr. Matijasevic. Paddy Ashdown and Carla Del Ponte have again sent a message to Srpska and partly to the HDZ as well, about the necessity to arrest persons indicted for war crimes. Will Mr. Matijasevic's sole task be to ensure these arrests do happen?
I'd heard the same message from Carla Del Ponte previously in person. That is absolutely clear. Carla Del Ponte as a representative of the prosecution and Theodor Meron, as a representative of the tribunal, on November 23 will report to the UN Security Council. If there are no practical steps that will secure trust of the international community in the institutions of Srpska, above all Srpska Police and now SIPA as well, a resolution of the UN Security Council will follow and it will certainly be very serious. That resolution will be followed by a series of steps. After November 23 we can expect big problems if until then we fail to prove to the international community that we are prepared to arrest persons indicted for war crimes.
Will you publicly invite Karadzic and Mladic to turn themselves in?
I have already done that. More than once. Also, the same invitation came from the parliament of Srpska in one of its resolutions. My message for all persons indicted for war crimes is that if they do not surrender they will force us or SFOR, whomever has the mandate, to arrest them and will be thereby putting themselves in danger. As far as I am concerned, that has nothing to do with politics, but is a legal issue. Please, gentlemen, arrest them and let's be finally done with that.
Yes I do - nothing happened. I've never been told openly why. In the meantime we had the attack on Iraq, so that the story about the factory in Vitez became irrelevant. But, the whole issue was very much important for us. At the time I turned over documentation I had received from "Jugoimport" and the Ministry of Defense of FR Yugoslavia dealing with deliveries of weapons, very dangerous weapons, from Vitez and "Bratstvo” Travnik to Iraq. The explosives delivered from Vitez were of the sort used in missiles. I delivered the documentation in the written form with a confirmation of delivery. I have a proof that the documentation was delivered and to whom it was delivered. Since then, an investigation hasn't been initiated. In Srpska, the investigation finished where it was supposed to - in court. In Federation BH no one wanted to touch that issue. In the near future I shall again request to be informed what has happened with that investigation.