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From the October 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 10)

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Perica Vucinic, Reporter (Bosnia edition), Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, May 16, 2001

On May 7, 2001, thousands of Serb protesters forced the cancellation of an attempt to lay the cornerstone for rebuilding the Ferhadija mosque in the now heavily Serb city of Banja Luka, Bosnia. The violence left one Muslim dead and more than 30 injured. Serbs dynamited the mosque during the Bosnian war (1992-95). —WPR

Comrades [Mirko] Sarovic, [Mladen] Ivanic, and [Dragan] Cavic [president, prime minister, and vice president of Republika Srpska, respectively] have apologized to Muslim believers. Never mind that they did not apologize nor were they asked by any international office to apologize to the majority of citizens of Republika Srpska (RS), who, because of the violence directed against them two days before, were feeling insecure and humiliated.

I do not know why they had to wait so long to announce the apology that, since it was extorted [by the international community], was deprived of its substance. Extortion coming from outside shows us that there are no innate values, but instead values have to be externally imposed. Disregard for the most basic values and principles has periodically been evident in RS, revealing this society as aimless, chaotic, and dangerous. And that is exactly what the stone throwing, howling, and arson in the Ferhadija courtyard demonstrated: the victory of hate over tolerance, of past over present, of madness over mind, of destruction over construction—a victory of negative principles over reason.

The refusal to define events in that way, and the attempts to dismiss the international community’s perceptions as “politicization,” “manipulation,” and “provocation,” even if there was a slight bit of truth in that, is a symptom of schizophrenia and the failure to build political and civic structures as mandated in the Dayton agreement.

Because, without its own values and principles, by waiting to have values and principles introduced from outside, Republika Srpska does not exist. Prime Minister Ivanic’s foot-dragging [after the violence at the Ferhadija mosque], belatedly asking for the resignation of his interior minister and then delaying his acceptance of the resignation, is evidence that he has yet to establish government accountability or the rule of law.

What High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch [the international community’s top official in Bosnia] has asked for from leaders of RS are not conditions for its survival, but conditions for its foundations. As long as those indicted for war crimes enjoy the authorities’ protection, as long as the biggest thieves flee the country, as long as most citizens feel insecure, as long as murderers walk around unpunished, as long as there is no stable economic system, as long as monopolists steal from the citizens...Republika Srpska does not exist. Dr. Ivanic has been given only a political place name that he has to fill in with positive content. It is high time that the postwar authorities in RS choose whether they want support from a destructive minority or a constructive majority and decide their strategy accordingly.

By refusing to assume responsibility, to take a clear stand on events, to identify and punish the masterminds of the violence in Trebinje [where, a few days before the Banja Luka incident, Serbs held a violent demonstration at a ceremony marking the reconstruction of a mosque—WPR] and Banja Luka, the authorities revealed that they are flirting with the principle of negativity. Nothing positive has ever originated from such a principle.

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