The removal of the flag of Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia’s Serb majority region, from Bosnia’s Presidency is “unacceptable” and “scandalous,” the Bosnian Serb member of the tripartite Presidency said on Saturday, adding that he perceives the act as a message that there is no place for Serbs in the Presidency.
“That move only confirms the intention of the hegemonistic circles in Sarajevo to, contrary to the Dayton (Peace Agreement), eliminate Republika Srpska, as the hysterical overnight assault on the flag of the RS demonstrated,” Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik told the Srna news agency.
Dodik, the hardline Serb member of Bosnia's Presidency and the first of the three to take the rotating chairmanship in this term, met on Friday with the newly appointed Ambassador of Serbia in Sarajevo’s Presidency office. He displayed the RS flag next to the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina in front of the office of the Presidency Chairman.
The other two Presidency members, Bosniak Sefik Dzaferovic and Bosnian Croat Zeljko Komsic, declared in a joint press statement that the move was illegal.
"Presidency members Komsic and Dzaferovic will not tolerate irresponsibility, arrogance and violation of the law which the Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik demonstrated today," their statement said, urging law enforcement agencies to take measures against the breach of the law.
There was no RS flag in fron of the office on Saturday anymore.
Dodik said that displaying the RS flag was the “symbolic representation of my identity and the identity of the people I belong to and whom I represent,” adding that the symbol of the RS is not offensive to anybody. “Who can be bothered by it? Nobody who has good intentions,” he said.
Only if someone would remove the flag of the Federation (FBiH), the other semi-autonomous entity, shared by Bosniaks and Croats, then the two other Presidency members would have the right to react, he said.
However, a flag of the FBiH has never been put up at that particular place where Dodik ordered the RS flag to be displayed.
The Serb Presidency member said that it is “worrying that the flag was brutally removed after working hours when nobody was in the cabinet,” which he said shows that “Bosnia’s 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 sneaking around which the political circles in Sarajevo control,” he said.
He called the move a “nocturnal assault” on the RS flag and said it will not prevent him from having the flag displayed in front of his cabinet again and that it will be displayed wherever he is in the building, “whether they like it or not.”
A Senior official in Dodik’s party and member of the House of Representatives, Stasa Kosarac, condemned the removal of the flag as well.
“It seems that the Bosniak member of the Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, is flexing his muscles and showing his strength only when Dodik is not in Sarajevo,” he said, adding that the RS flag will be put up again in front of Dodik’s office.
Putting up the flag in the first place, according to Kosarac, represented a message that Serb representatives in joint institutions will respect the Constitution and not laws which he said were imposed by the Office of the High Representative (OHR).
The High Representative is Bosnia’s top international official, appointed by the international community to oversee the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which includes Bosnia’s Constitution. Dodik has been at odds with the office for years, accusing the foreign officials of breaching the Agreement and working against the RS.
“According to the Constitution, Bosnia and Herzegovina is composed of two entities and three constitutional peoples. President Dodik is a representative of the RS and of the Serb people in Bosnia’s joint institutions and the RS flag symbolizes that,” Kosarac said.
The law on flags was imposed by High Representative Carlos Westendorp in 1998, he said.
“Under the pressure of the international community, that law was adopted in Parliament only in 2001,” he said, adding that his party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), will ask for the law to be changed.