AIM: start

WED, 16 JAN 2002 23:06:48 GMT

RS's Tenth Anniversary

Homage to the Pale Beacon

AIM Banja Luka, January 9, 2002

"Let us remember and not forget Pale, our beacon in times of war, the place where we reached all our major historical decisions and a place that will rightfully remain in our hearts. Let us remember many of those who put a mark on this period in our lives and who are no longer among us!" This is how Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic began his speech at a ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of Republika Srpska. We should recall here that on Jan. 9, 1992, the Assembly of the Serb people of Bosnia and Herzegovina passed the Declaration of Republika Srpska, which got a constitution on Feb. 28, and an army on May 13 the same year.

Epic inspiration never left him throughout the 20 minutes that it took to read the 10 or so pages of the speech. "Ten years ago our fate was a minuscule rock in a raging sea. Today, Republika Srpska is a seed that cannot be eradicated. We are writing new pages of our existence. Republika Srpska is only at the beginning and not at the end of its road. Our future is greater than our past." And so on and so forth. Glorification of the "seed that cannot be eradicated" could not pass without reference to its creation. "In retrospect, we have nothing to be ashamed of. Our path was the right one, and we would have taken it again, if we were to find ourselves at the beginning once more!" exclaimed Sarovic without blinking once. By saying this, the highest official in RS in fact said there was no need to condemn mass crimes, the destruction of churches, burning of villages, and laying sieges to cities. Two million refugees and displaced people in the country of which he is an official is for Sarovic a consequence of "taking the right path" and of fighting "honorably"!

President Sarovic told the people of RS and Bosnia and Herzegovina that this is the ethics and political morality that will serve to write the "new pages of our existence." "This path of ours and our just, pure and dignified struggle have to be protected in the days to come," Sarovic told the Office of the High Representative and Wolfgang Petritsch, who expects RS officials to finally show resolve in implementing the Dayton agreement, and particularly in regard to war crimes and the handing over of war crimes suspects. Instead of condemning such crimes, Sarovic called on the people present to remember individuals "who put a mark on this period in our lives and are no longer among us!"

After giving a moral and political assessment of the war, Sarovic went on to giving a political lecture on how to preserve Republika Srpska. This was preceded by a categorical must: "We will not give up what we have achieved, because we have nowhere to return to. Our graves are far too many to allow us to do that!" Then an unavoidable piece of political marketing followed: the people should rally around a platform for preserving Republika Srpska, a stable government, a stable ruling majority, love of the country, unity, concord.

Only then came about a dozen formal sentences mentioning the return of refugees in the following two years, the building and reconstruction of religious buildings, constitutional changes that will "lead to non-discrimination and overall equality," regional integration and cooperation with the Muslim-Croat Federation. And to top it all off, the final conclusion: "All this is needed so that we can take over complete responsibility for this country as soon as possible"!

It appears that Sarovic and the ruling group have long ago taken sole responsibility. The formal reception was not attended by a single Bosniak or Croat assemblyman, and not one representative of the Muslim-Croat Federation or the international community. RS Premier Mladen Ivanic said it showed their attitude toward the Dayton agreement and Republika Srpska. Ivanic did not even bother to ask himself whether any Bosniak or Croat would feel good while listening to Sarovic's glorification of RS.

This celebration of the anniversary of RS also was not attended by representatives of official Belgrade. Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic and Princess Katarina appeared in Banja Luka without prior notice. True, he did not make any boastful political statements, but did enough to clearly reveal where his sympathies lie. It is beyond doubt that this gesture of his will be widely exploited for propaganda purposes.

When the entire arrangement, scenic effects, rhetoric and participants of the festive spectacle are summed up, the jubilee had little in common with Republika Srpska's economic and political stability, but was instead a clear promotion of the Serb Democratic Party. The job was masterfully done in coordination with the Serbian Orthodox Church, which held ceremonial and memorial services throughout Republika Srpska. The absence of Radovan Karadzic, Momcilo Krajisnik, and decorated assemblymen from when the national Assembly was first convened and other champions guided by the beacon of Pale was not noticed at all. Their spirit was strong enough to make their physical presence unnecessary.

Branko Peric