Politics in June 1999

* Jelavic Presiding the Bosnian Presidency

It has been 8 months since the last September elections. And it is the right time for Bosnia and Herzegovina to get the new chairman of Bosnian Presidency. As I said before, thanks to the OSCE election rules, BIH got three chairmen of the Presidency in the last elections. One for Bosniak, Croat and Serb people. They change places every 8 months. Like in a game - new month and a new president. All this, for the next couple of years. It was probably the only way to end the rule of Alija Izetbegovic who will probably candidate "for the last time" in the following elections. Ante Jelavic has taken over the presidency 10 days ago. He replaced Zivko Radisic according to the procedure mentioned above.
Taking over the function, A. Jelavic gave a speech for his colleagues as well as for representatives of the Ministry Council, the Parliament and the Bosnian Court. In the speech, he announced the strategy of leading the country in the 8 month period to follow. He presented three basic goals which will be the foundation for his political actions as a president.
As the primary goal in the international politics, he pointed out the acceptance of BIH in the Council of Europe and the mutual responsibility for fulfilling the conditions placed upon BIH. Along with this, Jelavic considers the political dialogue for the beginning of negotiation on agreement about the cooperation between BIH and European Union very important as well as the access to World's Trading Organization.
Bringing BIH closer to the European Council, coordination of the entity and the state constitution and the implementation of the Dayton agreement, realisation of civil freedom in every way...
Also, Jelavic welcomes the help and the cooperation of the international community, thinking it neccessary especially in the process of reconstruction and making the multi-ethnic, multi-confessional and decentralized BIH, transformation of its economic, political and social life.
Nicely said.
It's just strange to hear all these "multi"stuff coming from a hardline HDZ member.
We'll see what happens and what his mandate brings. But, judging from the past and those before him - it won't be good.
It's interesting how Radisic said same things during his 8 months (as well as Izetbegovic during 8 years).
No difference, there was nothing better.
And now?
* The Last Days of Radisic
Speaking of Zivko Radisic, here's something funny from his last days as a president.
Led by his own or Belgrade beliefs, a few days before the end of his mandate, he illegally appointed Svetozar Miletic for a co-agent of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Haag Tribunal.
And Miletic wasted no time.
Right after the appointment he withdrawed the charges BiH had put against FR Yugoslavia because of the recent war in Bosnia. Just a coincidence?
I doubt it.
It's interesting how little it took for Rodoljub Etinski, Yugoslav agent in the Haag Tribunal, to react. A day after the charges were dropped by "Radisic's boy", Etinski sent a letter to the Court stating gratitude for this move, saying that his country would be happy to accept it.
But it seems that won't be possible.
Radisic had no right to make decision concerning the matters of state by himself, without the support of Presidency, and especially to give authorities like this. Obviously, it was a game that had to be finished before Radisic was replaced by Jelavic. His decision about the appointment of the co-agent as well as the letter to the court about termination of the procedure have been found illegal and legally worthless.
The process continues. Joined by the Croatian team who, several days back, also brought up charges against FR Yugoslavia. Although led by different reasons. Considering close relations between Tudjman and Milosevic, it is clear that Tudjman wouldn't dare to make such a move earlier. And today, when Milosevic is becoming weaker, Tudjman changes partners.
But, that's another story.
* Decision on Bosnian Elections
OSCE has finally announced the decision on communal elections in BIH.
Elections will be held on April 8, year 2000, instead of November as it was expected. This was announced by Robert Barry, chief of OSCE mission in BIH and the chairman of the Temporary Election Commission. This decision was preceded by consultations with political parties, the High representative, the representatives of the Peace Implementation Council and 54 country members of the OSCE.
The main reason for this was, as Berry said, recent situation in Kosovo and FR Yugoslavia that would make normal and safe election process impossible. Also, the registration of the voters in Yugoslav territory would be in question. Another argument in OSCE's favor is the fact that political parties would not be able to perform their political campaigns as successfully as they would after the situation was solved. Or, maybe, the OSCE is waiting for Westendorp and friends to clean the BH media so the beginning of the media campaign could be welcomed.
OSCE still hasn't considered political parties applications and Berry said others can send deposits so they could register. Although, the OSCE mission chief said that not all the parties who applied will automaticly take part in the up-coming elections. For example, he named the parties who don't have a peaceful sign in their names - Terrorist Party (!) and the Ravnogora Chetnik Movement. Besides all this, Barry is not very optimistic about the implementation of the election results, considering the results and the effects of the previous elections (10 months after the September elections, Republika Srpska still doesn't have the Government!) There's plenty of time till April, but it is to be expected that OSCE will intensify the preparation of the election rules.
Until the elections!
* About (un)efficiency of Bosnian police and Government
A few months back, one of the greatest media attraction was the trail of islam terrorists in Zenica. Just as a reminder, it was a group of mujahedins who had a strange habit of disturbing public peace several years after the war. Mostly by planting bombs and killing innocent people.
The terrorists were arrested after several attempts in a, as the police put it, "spectacular action".
The end of this story would have been very simple if it weren't happening in this country. The leader of the group, Lionel Dumont, who was the only one arrested in the end, got 20 year long accomodation in Sarajevo central prison. Justice was served. Until a few days ago.
Thanks to some "handy work" Dumont found himself free.
If we're to believe the police officials, Dumont escaped with a help from a rasp which ruined the bars. Just like in cheap, crime movies and good old Lucky Luke. And it's too unreal to believe. Of course, he ran away to Republika Srpska and maybe to FR Yugoslavia, so he's out of reach of Federal authorities.
End of story.
Is this just a well-made political game?
Dumont and his group were all over Bosnia while someone considered them useful. When the public pressure became too strong they were arrested in a flash. Because, the public is always right. As it could not have been done earlier. But was it desireable? Eventually, Dumont was tried and justice was pleased. Was it?
We can only speculate about the truth behind all this. Those who know it won't share it with us, for sure. As many times before.
Is it the well-known game in which the government keeps on protecting criminals who kept their interests during the war, so they can't get rid of them so easily.
With a remark and hope that Dumont's freedom won't bring new bombs and killings.
At the same time, negative tension between the police and crime boss' is increasing. One of them ran down a police officer in the middle of June. And then the cop got beaten him up, because, why on earth, would police pull him over?! The "hero"ended up in jail, and files on him and others like him, who have been terrorizing the city for years without criminal prosecution, have become available to the public.
Of course, they deny everything, they are not criminals but war heroes. Evidents for their guilt are hard to find. Even impossible. Because it is impossible to find witnesses for court proceedings. The main excuse is fear. That is normal in a country where life became very cheap.
There are many insinuations that there would be a public witness program protection, and it is known that a law like that is brought in countries where the war against crime is beyond controle.
If the police and judiciary kneel down this time too, Sarajevo will definitely be in the hands of Mafia. That's why this process is so important.
If it is impossible to convict a man with dozens criminal actions along with the media campaign like this, then there is a question if judiciary like this one has any sense (or the daily politics took it away a long time ago). Relations between criminals and the ruling party is also very indicative in the story. One of the criminals said that they will all vote for SDA, because if "those from SDP got power they would take away and destroy everything ".
So the relationship between the criminal and the party is quite clear. Let's add to this the latest statement from Omer Behmen, one of SDA gurus, who said that SDA is interest of the people. So it's easy to make a conclusion about the party and the people voting for it.
In that case, I hope SDP will win as soon as possible.
* About (un)success of Bosnian Team in Eurosong Contest
The first time since this country became a state and didn't embarrasse itself in the Eurosong competition.
Dino Dervishalidovic defended the country colors this year in Jerusalem, with his group and his song.
And what do you know!
Dervishalidovic didn't get one of the last three places as it became a custom for Bosnians in Eurosong. He ended up in the incredible seventh place. That was expected by very few, keeping in mind the tradition mentioned above. Dervishalidovic proved that not everything is as rotten as we believed. And as others believed. Even if it doesn't mean that we have to agree with thier taste.
The only problem was that Dino's predecessors were so deep down that not even his 7th place could get us in the next competition.
Maybe some other time.
* Media Freedom in BIH?
During the last session of the European Council in Strasbourg, there were many harsh debates about whether or not Bosnia and Herzegovina should be accepted in this institution. If we were to believe Bosnian representatives, there were no obstacles for that. Human rights, media freedom and everything else that is unreal in Bosnian reality, has been in a high level for a long time. If we are to believe those who say so.
But, judging from the reality, the truth is not what the government would like us to believe.
This time, Zenica sheriff, Ferid Alic, got the public attention through his attacks on journalists. He is one of those whose political career is not what he would like it to be. Many protests of Zenica war invalids testify this, as well as the inability of refugees to go back to their Zenica homes and number of letters to OHR concerning the sheriff and the situation...
So what's the problem?
The problem is that some Zenica journalists were brave enough to reveal just a part of the truth about the sheriff. And in his "own " television! What a nerve.
The journalists of the independent Zenica television dared to announce the documents by which the International Community acuses Zenica chief for problems happening in the town, and for the most bad things that have little to do with human rights and similar references.
As it usually happens around here, the journalists were supposed to be fired. Because, as Alic put it, they 'create the wrong image of the town they live in". You can't speak against Alic in television and town in which he is the chief. It makes a "bad" image.
And then it all came out.
Westendorp's office, OHR, is very eager to solve this problem the way things are not usually solved here - by replacing the sheriff. If the story will really end that way remains to be seen.
Still, the case of Dzevad Mlaco is indicative. He was the chief of Bugojno that Westendorp replaced in the same way, for more or less the same reasons as in Alic's case. And what happened. Instead of putting Mlaco in the past, retirement or prison, SDA gave him a seat in the state's Parliament.
We'll see if Alic's episode will end in the same manner.
A week or two after Zenica events, there was a seminar in Tuzla whose aim was to find an answer to the question of who and how pressures independent Bosnian media. The organizor, Democratic Alternative Forum, gathered the representatives of BH media and some of the international experts in the area.
Naturally, the result is quite clear.
It's clear to everyone who and how is disturbing the work of media around here. And it has been clearly named. The government, of course. Also the International Community that, thanks to the donations for the media tries to create the truth as they like it. Without realizing the essence of the truth. And eventually, the media themselves, who, running after the money, forget their professional dignity, as one of the participants pointed out.
But one more important thing remained unanswered and that is how and is it possible to overcome such a situation.
And the situation is really bad, if not disasterous.
At the moment, editors if the two strongest and mostly exposed BH political magazines - Slobodna Bosna and BH Dani, are on parole and a direct threat of going to prison. There are several other process' going on against Senad Avdic, the editor of Slobodna Bosna and they will allow him free stay in one of the Sarajevo prisons, if the result turns out to be negative for him. This is the result of the clash begun several months ago by Alija Izetbegovic who likes to compare Bosnian media with prostitutes. The comparation is unclear, but it is very clear what he thinks of them. And the aim is quite clear too - to get rid of those who are constantly pointing out to the government's bad actions. And that's their only guilt. But how far is it possible to go on working in such a manner?
There are many other reporters accused by the government and it's satellites. It gets worse day by day, the pressure on journalists is growing but the government is acting as nothing's happening.
And they want to make it to the Council of Europe.
Well, they won't make it.
* On the Account of the International Refugee Day
For those who don't know, June 16 is celebrated as the International Refugee Day. It is an ideal opportunity to analize the recent situation about the refugees in and out of BIH.
Let's take it in order.
Just as a reminder, refuge is a term that got into the new Bosnian history with the beginning of the war in Croatia. Many people from Croatia found their refuge in the summer of 1991in, at the time, safe Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some of them stayed. Forever?
Its "own" refugees Bosnia and Herzegovina got in the August that same year. What was known as Yugoslav National Army, destroyed the village Ravno that was in the far South of the country, near Croatian border.
A few months later, the process became more intensive. Since April 1992, tens thousands of people, or if someone prefers nations, were forced to leave their homes. Because of threats, fears, up-coming war... for all the reasons that disturbed us over the years.
Seven years later the number of displaced persons and refugees reached the amazing 1,5 million. BIH did not welcome this day,16 June, like years before and not much could be heard about it. That's not surprising, keeping in mind that leading men from the Refugee Ministry didn't know that this date exists. Until the moment I asked the deputy minister about information on current situation, stating the reasons I need them for. Absurd, but unfortunately true. But if not in BIH, this date was known in many other places.
That day, many Bosnian refugees took part in several actions happening in one of the main Ljubljana squares. The town Radio Student dedicated its daily program to this subject - refugees in the world today. I believe that was the case in ither, informed world centers. The world today is crowded with refugees. From many sides and different countries. And it doesn't look like their situation might change soon.
I'll stop at the recent situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is closest to us and that is one of the leading ideas of this newsletter.
According to the latest data, from the Ministry for Refugees and Displaced Persons, there are about 680 000 displaced persons (the term that is used for those who are not in their homes but still inside the country) and other 100 000 refugees from other countries. Concretely, 30% of them are from Croatia and the rest 70% (about 68 000) are from FR Yugoslavia. Most of them are from Sanjak (30 000), and there are about 14 00 Kosovars in BIH. Information about 24 000 refuged Serbs is not relevant because the registration of refugees in Serb entity is not required. If this number going to change, remains to be seen.
Outside of BiH 850 000 of its citizents has the status of refugees. It's evident that this number will be smaller in the future. Partly because some of them will come back (willingly or not, but probably not as we can see from some Western countries), partly because some of them will get the papers they need for legal staying in the country they are in (out of 60 000 refugees registered in Slovenia there are only 3500 today). In the last 4 years, since the Dayton agreement, about 400 000 refugees came back to Bosnia and the Ministry for Refugees thinks it a great success. And yet, even they express their pessimism about the further process of returning. Out of 350 000 applications for voluntery return process, started by the International Community, local authorities approved only 1% of them. That is absurd, to say the least. If you're a refugee and coming back to your ruined home bringing the furniture from the country you're coming from, keep in mind that you need to pay taxes for everything you're bringing in. Still, I witnessed the cases where , in various border lines, they had support from the area where they used to live and they got the transportation, financies for the taxes and the usual bribe for the custom's officers. Is it because they really want to help or to get rid of them, I couldn't find out.
The problem of local authorities and bad laws is one of the greatest reasons why the process of returning isn't working the way it should. If you remember things we wrote about during the last year, you'll see that the only things mentioned about the refugees were attack and violence. Refugees in Herzegovina, Drvar, East Bosnia, all over Republika Srpska were attacked. Sarajevo is constantly in danger of getting sanctions because of the authorities aspirations to slow down the return of minorities to the city. OHR recently stopped the return to Drvar because they are not able to guarantee safety to Serbs that are willing to go back there.
It is ironic that the year 1998, the year of violence and attacks on refugees, was proclaimed the year of the return. If the return looks like it did that year then we'd better forget the whole thing. The International Community realized that too.
The big return is not announced for year 1999 or 2000. Everyone is pessimistic but still hoping.
"21st century with the refugees" seems to be the parole of politicians around these parts.
Haris Silajdzic, president of the Party for BIH, said that refugees need to be brought back by force, using the Kosovo model. Silajdzic didn't say if it would mean bombing Banja Luka and other cities in Republika Srpska. He didn't really mean that because, in that case, many cities in the Federation would be targets also. The truth is that out of planned 70 000 refugees only 4000 came back to Republika Srpska but is it possible to solve the situation by using force? Several previous wars we (unfortunately) witnessed prove us wrong.
Another factor preventing the return is the lack of coordination between two Bosnian entities. Usual situations that can't be solved are the ones when the owner wants to go back to the apartment occupied by refugees whose home has been ruined so they have nowhere to go. And there are many cases like that. And very little places to live. Hope remains that the up-coming investment in reconstruction of buildings will solve the recent, difficult situation. Does anyone want to restore apartments in Sarajevo that the owners won't be able to come back to.
And can anyone make that 21st century easier for the refugees.
I hope they can.