interview by I.GAJIC and S.BIZIC
NOVI REPORTER: Does that mean that PDP's influence on political solutions is again significantly larger than the true strength of that party?
DODIK: Absolutely. However, that is not a paradox, since as far as the PDP is concerned, politically it is in their interest to have the situation in which the SDS or the SNSD will assume all the real responsibility. The public in Srpska must realize that in these talks there is no hatred, nor enmity. We simply have different assessment of what can be done in politics at this moment. I believe that every new government with SDS participation will face insurmountable obstacles. PDP's example clearly demonstrated as much. At one time Mladen Ivanic had the reputation of God's messenger, only to end up on American lists of banned persons four years later, since Western powers do not have understanding for the political concept in which he found himself. We can say that that is due to stereotypes and I am sorry that that is the case, but it is impossible to change the negative image of the SDS abroad. Whoever forms an alliance with the SDS will be stained by that negative image. Consequently, the SDS must move to the opposition and give a chance to the Republic of Srpska, irrespectively of if Milorad Dodik or someone else will be Prime Minister. The PDP is now trying to rehabilitate itself after their coalition government with the SDS. Normally, at this moment my main preoccupation is not to finish off my political opponents, since the time is not right for such preoccupations. But, calculations of certain political parties are obvious.
How significant is the agreement of six parties from Srpska regarding the constitutional status of the Republic of Srpska, police reform, military reform, cooperation with the Hague Tribunal and relations with the international community?
The SNSD decided to join those talks after combative statements and threats by the High Representative indicating that huge changes must happen in B-H by April 2005. As people who are determined to defend the constitutional and legal system in B-H, we were convinced that it was consequently necessary to overcome political differences between different parties and come to an agreement on a limited number of important issues, such as the topics you just mentioned. Regarding the constitutional status of Srpska we agreed that the Dayton Agreement not only stopped a war but also established a constitutional and legal organization of B-H. That organization can be changed only through agreement and based on consensus of both entities and all three constituent peoples. We will not accept any imposed solutions. We want to affirm the constitutional and legal order in B-H. On the other hand, we in the SNSD believe that the goal of the police reform should be to produce a more efficient police organization; unfortunately, it seems other parties in these talks believe that police reform should be a way to modify the constitutional status of the Srpska Police. Although we strongly criticize all deficiencies of the Srpska Police, the proposal of the commission in whose work the government of Mr. Mikerevic participated to abolish the Srpska Police is unacceptable as far as we are concerned. We did not have a problem to agree on that point. On the other hand, persistent insistence on unity within Srpska mostly harms the position of political parties that advocate that thesis. That unity can be expressed in different ways, one of which is giving up power; on the other hand, proponents of "unity" insist on participation of all parties in the government. The authorities in Srpska must be quickly consolidated and must try to secure new legitimacy with the international community in the coming four months. I want to repeat one more time that the new government can be based on only two concepts. One is the current structure - the SDS, the PDP and their sycophants - while the other option is government without the SDS. It is important that our talks went on without bitterness. Earlier, once we reached the discussions on the composition of the new government, we would give up and abandon talks. This time we persisted in negotiations. But that does not mean that we will accept absolutely unrealistic demands, if the SDS and the PDP keep insisting on them, not because the SNSD wants power but because we must not share responsibility with people who are responsible for the current losing concept. They would bring their legacy of losers to the new government.
Are you apprehensive regarding participation in the government due to the risk that the SNSD would be blamed for processes in which it did not participate?
At this moment my only political motivation is to try to contribute to the stabilization of Srpska. If I were motivated exclusively by the interests of my political party I would most definitely not participate in the talks but would sit on the side and watch the SDS and the PDP do what they are doing, sufficiently unsuccessfully for anyone to realize that they are incompetent. We have said that we are prepared to join the government. If other participants in the negotiations believe that we can do something in power, we request their support and declaration of a moratorium on all inter-party disputes during the next four months. Although they haven't accepted our demands that the privatization process be reexamined and that general election be called we haven't abandoned these talks, hoping that we could find at least one point we agree on. The PDP must decide between the current concept of government and a government with the SNSD. In the latter option participation of their people, provided they are sufficiently qualified, in the government would be acceptable. However, the higher PDP officials, whose names are currently on various black lists of various governments, cannot be in the government. Initially they accepted that demand but now it seems they've concluded that was a mistake and are trying to position themselves as the pillar of the story about fake unity. I think that Srpska does not need unity that has been promoted for almost 15 years now. We need unity of action and a new concept of government, which will be supported by all, regardless of whether they participate in that government or not.
Has the process of centralization of B-H gone so far that even the acceptance of a new concept of government in Srpska would not change much in that respect?
All of us, including myself, constantly think about that. However, sometimes you reach the situation when everything has gone to hell, as is the case now, more or less, in Srpska. Because if that we have a moral and humane attitude, embodied in readiness to attempt to stop the downfall. We are not certain that we shall succeed. It is very likely that we shall also suffer from the measures of the international community, but we want to try. We do not want to be described tomorrow as politicians who did not try. This is not necessarily a politically rational stance. Instead, we are talking about a dire need, our desire to try our best and see what happens. Srpska currently faces a very difficult economic and social situation, but the dissatisfaction of workers, retirees and other categories of population has temporarily quieted down due to the economic crisis. The international status of Srpska has never been worse, although we had our man in the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of B-H. What can we do? With new people and new administration we can sit down with foreigners and tell them: "We want to set up a special police unit whose duty will be to find and arrest war crimes suspects. That is a proof of our willingness to work on that issue. You will not punish us because of failures regarding arrests. Look, we are working on that, but what if the suspects are not in Srpska? What if five years in the future someone writes in his memoirs that he was in China or some other country, while we suffered under sanctions in Srpska? Will in that case Ashdown, if he ever reads those memoirs, say that he is sorry?" Therefore, we must try to initiate an effective action regarding the fulfillment of international obligations. That implies setting up of a new special police unit with a suitable budget. In that sense it is necessary to request coordination with Serbia and Montenegro, as well as participation of a certain number of foreign experts, so that they can see for themselves what that unit is doing. I am aware that some international representatives have in the past rejected this idea. But let me ask them - how can we make such a great step forward, which the world expects from Srpska, if we do not have specially trained professionals who are focused on that issue? It is foolish to expect from traffic cops to arrest war crimes suspects. Specially trained professionals are needed! After that, it is necessary to visit important centers abroad and attempt to explain our situation and get some breathing space that would allow us to achieve progress in Srpska. I have never been less convinced of success than now, but also, there's never been a greater need and obligation coming from the public to try something. Literally, simply to try something. No one can say with certainty if we shall succeed.
Can representatives of Srpska in joint institutions do anything to prevent dismantling of two-entity organization of B-H? What is your opinion regarding the most recent activities of the SDS and the PDP on that level?
Unfortunately in public they advocate coordinated activities at that level of government, while the truth is that they are only concerned about their own position. However, the fact is that they persistently talk about Srpska, the talk I also share and understand. I see the Republic of Srpska as a lasting category. Regardless of if Milorad Dodik is Prime Minister. The SNSD will not accept revisions of the Constitution of B-H if the changes limit the jurisdiction of the institutions of Srpska or lead to its abolishment. Srpska is a part of B-H, and there can be no Bosnia-Hercegovina without the Republic of Srpska. We do not demand separation of Srpska from B-H, we do not want to deepen conflicts, but we believe that it is necessary to create functional relations between entities and B-H. Four years ago the international community advocated the concept of functional state with efficient entities. Today we believe that Mr. Ashdown was sincere when he said - anything is possible. We interpreted that statement as an indication that Srpska may be abolished. He does not have the authority to do something like that, but someone from Srpska who has the dignity of being in power [sic] needs to tell him that. As an opposition politician I can tell him as much; Mr. Ashdown, you don't have the right, you cannot abolish Srpska. He is aware of that and, consequently, after two days he denied his own statement and clarified his attitude. In certain issues I support the High Representative. For example when he says that the Constitution of B-H cannot be changed without consensus. Let us see if he behaves that way. I have collected in one folder all the statements by Mr. Ashdown in which he states that the Constitution cannot be changed without consensus or that Srpska cannot be abolished. I always carry that folder with me and if necessary I'll remind him of his views and say: "Sir, you used to say something else, what is this now?" However, I must emphasize that the current authorities in Srpska, led by the SDS and the PDP, are responsible for the current crisis. Some may criticize me because of such views. They may say that "the government is almost there, keep quiet for a minute". But no, I still believe that they are responsible for the current situation. They gave excuses to Paddy Ashdown to do that, regardless of to what extent systemic measures of the OHR are unacceptable.
Would you care to comment on the very unusual coincidence that the inter-party talks in Srpska started at the time the authorities issued an indictment against you and Novak Kondic, charging you with alleged abuses while you held the offices of Prime Minister and Minister for Finances, respectively?
In principle I do not believe in conspiracy theories, but I cannot deny that for the first time I am inclined to believe that nothing in this case is accidental. This case has been investigated for four years already. The affair culminated in 2001 in the midst of the campaign of the previous government whose goal was to prove that activities of my administration were to be blamed for all the problems in Srpska. Later those investigations were dragged out in different ways, while now suddenly everything was wrapped up extremely quickly. I have been charged with allocating 25 apartments to people who were not even members of my political party. I do not want to offend anyone, but these individuals were far from ordinary men and women. They include university professors, judges, and physicians. All of them ultimately won their cases in court in connection with those apartments, and the Prosecution, after four years of dragging its feet, chose precisely this moment to issue an indictment. The timing is extremely suspicious, if you take into account that someone went through and compared 19,600 documents with my signature adopted at government sessions during three years of my administration. They found documents with typos, wrong dates and so on and wrote in the indictment that those documents were not adopted at government sessions. However, I find it hard to understand why I would not run by the administration the decision to allocate funds to the economics department of the Banja Luka University or the Constitutional Court of Srpska. Also, there is the notorious story about the company "Hit-hod" and a bank guarantee. The truth is as follows: "Hit-hod" had taken a consignment of goods, which was confiscated by the customs upon entry to Srpska, since that company had large debts due to unpaid taxes. Banjalucka Bank, at the time a government owned company, had issued a guarantee that could be cashed three or seven days after the delivery of the consignment. This case went on for some seven-eight months. Finally the court decided in favor of "Hit-hod" since the customs hadn't followed regulations. Then we faced a dilemma - should we sell the consignment and help Banjalucka Bank to recover its funds or do something else. We decided to pay about 700,000 KM [about $350,000] to a state-owned bank that was backed by "Incel", "Cajavec" and other state-controlled companies. Our paramount concern was national interest and we decided not to pay "Hit-hod". Later the owner of "Hit-hod" filed a suit and got another decision in his favor from the so-called independent judiciary as the court established that he had suffered losses amounting to several million KM. No one cares whether that was correct, but someone has found it appropriate to say - fine you tried to save Banjalucka Bank but now you're guilty. However, given that the court decided that "Hit-hod" had forgone profit of KM 3 million from a consignment of goods worth KM 700,000 it is obvious that we were dealing with a bunch of criminals. But, we'll hear more about that in court. I do not want to stress the political context of the indictment, but I have the need to clarify charges and allegations.
Does the indictment make it impossible for you to become the new Prime Minister?
Every organized society would wonder how a prosecutor can be paid for four years KM 3000 a month while keeping in his drawer a case that was clearly recognized as early as 2001 as a crime. What about the efficiency of the prosecutor's office? Who gave them the right to do nothing for three years? There are no obstacles regarding my appointment to the Prime Minister's office. Only those individuals who have been sentenced to six month or longer prison terms are barred from public offices. However, the whole case has an ethical dimension as well, and that's why that is happening. Is Milorad Dodik the biggest criminal in the city in which mafia dons control many prosecutors and judges? I am convinced that criminal circles in Banja Luka, with influence on the Prosecutor's Office and with support from some elements of the current administration are behind the whole affair. I also believe that the international community, which keeps such people in the judiciary, also shares responsibility. For example the indictment against me was written and filed by the man who had been a year earlier first denied by the OHR the application to become a prosecutor. However, a year later the same Mr. Delic is an important factor of the judicial system. I have that document and will show it in court. Perhaps I am an obstacle to the international community? It is interesting that immediately after the indictment had been issued Mr. Ashdown said that I cannot be a candidate for the new Prime Minister because of the indictment. Later he phoned me. I refused to talk to him and demanded that they send in written form whatever they want. I also added that I refuse to accept guilt and expect that the court reach a verdict. If I become the new Prime Minister, Mr. Ashdown's belief that I should not be a Prime Minister is irrelevant as far as I am concerned. His belief is illegal. The law says I can be a Prime Minister. Mr. Ashdown is here to implement laws, not to arbitrarily impose his own will.
Srpska Police has arrested a former official of the SDS Miroslav Vjestica on war crimes charges and extradited him to the cantonal court in Bihac. Can such type of inter-entity transfer be described as a future model for cooperation with the Hague Tribunal?
Although the public in Srpska has started to change its attitude regarding that issue the relations with the Hague Tribunal are still the reason why we are sanctioned by the international community. I understand that a solution of such a significant issue will remove one of the excuses exploited by Mr. Ashdown to take measures against Srpska. As far as I understand, he does not want to have that excuse, since he always starts his announcements of new OHR sanctions by saying: "I would prefer not to have this press conference". I would do everything in my power to make sure he does not have to have another press conference. There are new factors regarding that problem. Mr. Dragan Cavic has told us that more than 400 indictments from the A-list of the Hague Tribunal have arrived in Srpska. Indictments from the A-list were approved by the Hague Tribunal for processing by the local courts. Mr. Vjestica was probably on one of those indictments and that will be a bigger problem in Srpska than the story about arrest of individuals indicted by the Hague Tribunal, regarding public reaction. If you want to be a part of the international justice system, then, upon request from any court in B-H, if a suspect from the abovementioned list refuses to appear in that court he has to be taken into custody by the police. A few months ago eight individuals were delivered to the cantonal court in Sarajevo, and now we have the case of Miroslav Vjestica. Besides, Ashdown demands that all persons mentioned in the report of the Commission for Srebrenica as participants of that event be investigated. That, again, involves between 400 and 500 persons, therefore a large number. We must shift that responsibility to state institutions as soon as possible and thereby obtain space to deal with serious economic and social problems. Until the relations with the Hague Tribunal are our most pressing concern, we shall be in increasingly worse situation.
Original headline - "SDS mora da bude opozicija i da pruzi sansu RS"