The news that former international community High Representative to BiH, Lord Paddy Ashdown, died at the age of 77, caused different reactions in the state where he spent four years trying to turn it into a normal, successful country.
From May 2002 to January 2006, Ashdown was in a post that enabled him to represent the international community but also to be the “Supreme interpreter of the civil aspect of Dayton Peace Agreement”. In combination with the so called “Bonn powers”, it meant that his decisions were final and nobody could questioning them. In fact, that sort of power is the reason why part of BiH citizens love him and the other part hates him, depending on the nationality. His “rule” in BiH began in the fragile moment when the country was at a political and economic crossroad.
He became famous… or infamous for his decision to sign a decree that removed 59 politicians, mainly Serbs, members of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS). It was such a sudden decision that Republika Srpska National Assembly Speaker at the time, Dragan Kalinić, who was on the list, was forbidden from continuing to lead the Assembly session. He had to leave his position in the middle of the session.
Ashdown’s decision triggered unsatisfaction across the country and many Serb politicians, in the span of a moment, were left without any source of income. Years later, they were pardoned and most of them were enabled to enter politic activities again. One of them, Milovan CickoBjelica, said to media in that Ashdown did only evil to Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens and that, whoever want prosperity in the country, must admit that.
“Brutal removals of legal and legitimate officials, violence against the law, imposition of decisions and laws that have changed the constitutional structure of BiH should not be honored by anyone, and nobody should glorify such a decision, nor the one who brought them. In any case, I certainly will not attend the commemoration, nor the funeral of Pedi Ashdown”, said Bjelica, who is present SDS vice president and Mayor of the city of Sokolac.
Similar feelings are shared by a large number of Serb politicians in BiH, even those who were not removed by Ashdown’s decisions. One of those who think that the Lord was the most brutal person among all High Representatives is present Chairman of the BiH Presidency, Milorad Dodik. In any possible occasion, Dodik emphasized that Ashdown changed so many regulations that the constitutional structure of the state is far from the one provided in the Dayton Peace Agreement.
On the other side, Bosniak politicians were rather protected in by Ashdown. He removed just a few Bosniaks from their positions and soon they were pardoned and able to return to their previous political activities. On the occasion of his death, the association “Mothers of Srebrenica”, which gather the families of Srebrenica 1995 victims, extended their condolences to the Ashdown family.
“We called him ‘the second Tito’”, said the Association in a press release, referring to exYugoslavia president, Josip Broz Tito.
The office of the High Representative to BiH stated in the press release that Lord Ashdown played a crucial role in the creation of several institutions provided for under the Dayton Peace Agreement. In addition to state building, as it was underlined, a crucial goal of his was to implement the Dayton’s promise to reverse the consequences of the war. To this end, he worked with partners in BiH and the international community to rebuild a multi-ethnic and multicultural BiH, removing obstacles to the return of refugees and displaced persons and facilitating efforts to break networks of support for war criminals. During his time as the High Representative, over 200 laws were adopted, and many institutions were created in the Parliament, a figure which speaks for itself.
“He developed a deep connection with this country and its people. He literally met thousands of them, from every corner, even the smallest hamlet, always keeping them in mind as he worked to set the country on a path towards irreversible stability. He always said his job was to help create a modern structure on the Dayton blueprint, able to start on the path to joining the EU. This will be part of his enduring legacy”, High Representative, Valentin Inzko, said.
The truth is that Lord Ashdown during and after his mandate in BiH did not leave anyone indifferent and his activities determined the future of the state./IBNA