The overall estimation of the first week since the newly elected members of the BiH Presidency took offices in Sarajevo is that they did not start well, and in accordance with the principles of peace building and reconciliation.
The biggest point of dispute between Serb member and first Chairman of the BiH Presidency, Milorad Dodik, and his Croat and Bosniak colleagues, Željko Komšić and Šefik Džaferović, is the flag. But, it is not about the state flag of BiH, but rather that of Republika Srpska entity, which Dodik promised to bring in the Presidency building and to use it on any occasion. In accordance with this promise, on Friday his assistants set the RS flag right next to BiH state flag, on the occasion of the reception of newly appointed Serbian ambassador in BiH, Aleksandar Đorđević. This event shooke the public so hard that some of most radical commentators demand the arrest of Dodik, because he broke the BiH Law on flag.
Indeed, the Law, imposed in 1998 by High Representative at the time, Carlos Westendorp, determine the occasions when the BiH flag is obligated, and among them is: “On all occasions of official international visits, competitions and other gatherings (political, scientific, cultural – artistic, sports and others) at which Bosnia and Herzegovina is participating or is represented”. Right after this article, the Law says that “In all cases referred to in the previous paragraph, no other flag from Bosnia and Herzegovina shall be displayed together with the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
So, it is clear that Dodik did violate these articles and that anger coming from Džaferovića and Komšić has a valid basis. In joint press release, they said that the Presidency Chairman violated Article 5 of the Law on Flag and ignored the clear instructions of the Protocol Service.
“Presidency members Komšić and Džaferović will not tolerate irresponsibility, arrogance and violation of the law which Presidency Chairman, Milorad Dodik, demonstrated”, wrote the statement.
Dodik answered that he does not see anything disputable in this matter and that he will insist on the presence of the RS flag in any event he attend. Even after the press release, he continued in same manner, placing the RS flag in front of his office in BiH Presidency building in Sarajevo. That, obviously, was too much for Džaferović, who ordered the relevant department to remove the flag.
They did it, but during the night. On Saturday morning flag had been removed and Dodik had a new reason to continue in the same style. He stated that it is now clear that the “Presidency building is not a secure place for its normal functioning”.
“One can assume that in the building, in my cabinet, when nobody is around, there are members of various intelligence agencies, controlled by the political circles in Sarajevo, sneaking around”, he said.
He continued that this move “symbolically confirms the intention of hegemonistic circles in Sarajevo to eliminate Republika Srpska, contrary to the Dayton Peace Agreement, and a hysterical night attack on the Srpska flag demonstrates just that”.
“It is my need for a symbolic presentation of my identity and the identity of the people I come from and who I represent. The colours and symbolism of the flag of Republika Srpska do not insult anyone and represent its official visual identity. Who could possibly be bothered by it? No one with good intentions, I suppose”, Dodik explained.
However, there was no Republika Srpska flag in front of Dodik’s office during the weekend. On Monday morning, one of the biggest news in RS media was that the flag has been set up against. This is a clear sign that Dodik is “showing his muscles” to other Presidency members and to the public in BiH. But, as the Chairman of the BiH Presidency he must ask himself whether perhaps the citizens of all nations in the state have bigger problems than the position of a flag./IBNA