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May 23, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 139

Interview with Mirko Pejanovic and Miro Lazovic

by Svetlana Vasovic-Mekina

VREME: Who do you actually represent?

PEJANOVIC: All parties that won in the first multiparty elections in Bosnia respectively claimed the right to represent their peoples as a whole (which was particularly institutionalized by the Serbian Democratic PartySDS). Such a formula of ``representation'' is hazardous both to the people and to democracy. One people cannot be represented by a single political party if we want to have a multiparty system. The Serb Civic Council was formed by the assembly of citizens of Serb nationality, who live on the free territory, i.e. the territory controlled by the Government and the Army of BH. Therefore, through the Serb Civic Council we represent those citizens of BH (about 200,000 people) who used to and still support cohabitation with the Muslims and the Croats of B H, Bosnia-Herzegovina as a unitary state and equality of all constituent peoples. I'm the President of the Serb Civic Council and a member of BH Presidency. Lazovic is the Speaker of BH Parliament and a member of BH war presidency.

VREME: Isn't it a paradox that you as representatives of civic parties oppose the block of extreme nationalist parties while representing the Serbs?

PEJANOVIC: By organizing the citizens of Serb nationality in our case we formed an association of citizens which is a non-party organization.

LAZOVIC: We do not seek to replace SDS as a national party. During the two years of the peace process it was necessary to show some opposition to the policy of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and Bosnian Serb Army Commander General Ratko Mladic so that the world would finally realize that they cannot speak in the name of all Serbs. We continue to advocate a civic option and believe that BH as a civic state is the best possible solution for all its citizens, including the Serbs.

VREME: What do you, as representative of one Bosnian Serb faction, think about Karadzic's policy representing all other Serbs?

LAZOVIC: The image of him representing all Bosnian Serbs has been built for a very long time, as if there are no Serbs who don't support his political option. If it were so, BH would have already been divided.

PEJANOVIC: One of the reasons why we took up public work is to try to remove a collective mortgage that the policy of Radovan Karadzic and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic imposed on the Serbian people. We believe that the regime in Belgrade and its exponent in Pale are responsible for everything that happened in former Yugoslavia. The war option was not supported by all Serbs, at least not by such a high percentage of them as Karadzic makes it out to be. Therefore, it would be the best if Serbs opposed Milosevic's policy of aggression and expansion within their own nation. On the other hand, we want to point out to the international community that there is a high percentage of Serbs living on the free territory who do not support Karadzic and his policy, that a large number of Serbs fled the territories controlled by Karadzic and his exponents refusing to join the war against their country and their neighbors. Karadzic is driven into a corner merely by figures. He cannot count on 4045 per cent of the Serbs who used to live on the territory he controls. Moreover, a large number of those 45 per cent do not support his policy, although it appears that all those Serbs stand behind him because of the regime of force and totalitarianism in those areas. Yet another fact that remains unknown is that a huge number of those who fled now wander around Europe together with Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims. It is high time that the image the world has about him and about us is changed. Their means of solving everything is force and war. They are a factor that needs to be taken into consideration during the negotiations, but they represent only a faction of the Serbian people. It is a Chetnik faction. A high number of Serbs support a civic option, the option of peace and not war. We want the voices of those Serbs to be heard.

VREME: It seems that you are ignored by the world media, since you somehow spoil their image of the Serbs. On the other hand, during the fiercest fighting and shelling of Sarajevo it was not in the interest of BH authorities to show the world that there are some other Serbs?

PEJANOVIC: Speaking of the media the world has unfortunately gotten used to taking national leaders as the only measure irrespective of what they may be doing. I have nothing good to say about those politicians whose platform is war. I belong to the group of people and public workers who would rather talk a thousand times that wage war for a second... It's true that Europe has adopted the formula that there are three peoples, three parties, and three leaders in Bosnia, and that only what they say bears any relevance for Europe. The multiparty life within BH is thus ignored.

VREME: Could you describe how the negotiations with Karadzic, who represents the same nation, went?

PEJANOVIC: What could one think about the people who based their policy on force? Force was bestowed on Karadzic in the form of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and directed at waging the war in the name of Greater Serbian interests. What is one to think about the policy of driving people out of their homes by force? What is one to think about the policy that kills people? About the policy that grows on hatred towards the people of different nationality and faith, although they lived in tolerance for centuries? Karadzic was not born in Bosnia, he only completed his education in Bosnia. And he's now using force to fight for the idea that the ethnic mixture in BH is impossible. He destroys the cohabitation by force. It's the policy of Greater Serbia that he brought from his native Montenegro. It's the policy that separates the Serbs from their neighbors, with whom they lived together for centuries, driving them into national sheepfolds, i.e. ethnically clean areas. What does the policy of ethnic cleansing, genocide and crimes mean today at the end of 20th century?

LAZOVIC: I participated in all talks held in Geneva and Washington. Despite all efforts to maintain a decent level of diplomacy, their unreasonable proposals have prompted emotional reaction on many occasions. For example, their proposal that everything must be divided, which means that separate roads ought to be built for Muslims, Croats, and Serbs. The junction was another original solution. Serbs would get to use the overpass and Muslims the underpass. Similar stupidities were presented to us in the most serious manner... When we objected that the citizens of Sarajevo would not be able to reach Zenica, Karadzic literally replied, ``Dig a tunnel through Kobilja Glava,'' which is a hill overlooking Sarajevo. This best describes those who make decisions about the fate of the Serbian people in an utterly irresponsible way. With their policy Milosevic and Karadzic have driven the Serbian people into a moral, material, and spiritual catastrophe which this people does not deserve, having always been a victim, never an aggressor.

VREME: Doesn't it look to you that such a policy was after all successful since the world accepts them as a subject in the negotiations?

PEJANOVIC: We differ from the others because we believe that people must be given international guarantees that they would return to their homes and that the territorial division of BH along ethnic lines is a crime. We believe that the Bosnian war cannot be solved by force, but only by the means of the negotiations as a way of ending the war, all military activities and enemy propaganda. This also implies that the Serbs accept the formula guaranteeing that the equality of all three sides in BH would be institutionalized through federal institutions. Otherwise the war will continue.

VREME: How will the war end now when the government troops are fighting with Karadzic's army and attacking Brcko?

LAZOVIC: The position of the BH Army is legal and in function of our political goals. We want to defend BH and prevent a complete reconstitution of some future ethnic Serb state and its linking with Krajina in Croatia. Apart from this there is a project of creation of Greater Serbia that would negate BH as a sovereign and independent state. We advocate Bosnia Herzegovina as modern and civic republic within its territorial borders and believe that this would be the best for the Serbs as well. The B H Army is now launching some actions aimed at defending unitary BH by cutting the corridor, which would force Karadzic to return to the negotiating table...

PEJANOVIC: Let's look at the factswho carried out offensive actions in BH? If it had been the Army of BH we would now control 7080 percent of the territory and not Karadzic's army. His army wouldn't have control of 70 per cent of Bosnia if it hadn't attacked. They have invented a thesis that they are forced to continue to fight because of the offensive of the BH Army, to which they refer as the Muslim army which is pure desecration. More precisely, the front around Brcko is in function of the propaganda war aimed at provoking the continuation of fighting. The BH Army was in the position to resist and defend itself all the time. Some places were defended, others were regained. The policy of the legal organs of BH is the cessation of military activities, the negotiations, and the search for political solutions. Our government has done everything to together with the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia, i.e. the Croatian national corps, find a political solution within the framework of the Washington agreement. It was not a perfect solution, but at least all military activities ceased. We demand the same of the socalled Karadzic's side. Instead, he offered the offensive on Gorazde. When we stopped that, he opened up Brcko in propaganda terms.

VREME: You've just said that referring to the BH Army as the Muslim army is desecration. Are there any other places apart from Kladanj where the Serbs fight on the side of your army?

LAZOVIC: The region of Tuzla is an example where the mixed authorities are in power and where people of different nationalities are trying together to resist expansionist appetites of Karadzic's army. For two years the Serbs, together with the Muslims and the Croats, in Sarajevo had to go through all the horrors of the biggest concentration camp run by Karadzic's Serbs from the surrounding hills.

PEJANOVIC: Serb victims of the shelling of Sarajevo represent a sufficient evidence to convict Karadzic as a war criminal. Judging by the population, Sarajevo used to be the second largest Serb city after Belgrade. The same is true today. There are between 60 and 70 thousand people of Serb nationality in the city today. Why is this fact covered up in Belgrade? Who will be held responsible? According to some research, more Muslims have left the city than Serbs. The Serbs stayed in Sarajevo working in all structures of life and struggled on defying the Serb aggression. By working in the joint organs of power we enabled them to save their political and human face not only in Sarajevo but also in Tuzla and in the whole of BH.

LAZOVIC: During the first months of the war, two shells landed in front of my house. 7 children who played outside were killed. 5 of them were Serbian children. Are they traitors as well? The thesis that those Serbs who stayed in the Bosnian towns are traitors is a product of the Chetnik ideology. And we are traitors in that context. I, personally, declare myself a traitor of the Chetnik ideology and refuse to support the Greater Serbian policy.

VREME: Aren't you afraid that the Bosnian Government might be using you as ``good'' Serbs and that your political engagement may be abused?

PEJANOVIC: No. Because we have always done everything in the interest of peace and cohabitation in BH. Allow me to rephrase the question: what would have happened with all other Serbs if Mr. Lazovic, myself and many other Serbs hadn't taken part in the institutions of power and accepted, equally as everybody else, responsibility for the fate of the country? What would have happened to the Serbs in the towns and villages throughout BH where they still live in peace with their neighbors, if we hadn't defended our Bosnia? What would have happened if we hadn't opposed the extremists within the Bosnian policy and made our contribution to dismantling of Caca's, Juka's, and other paramilitary groups, and had the professional BH Army and the well organized police take over control of the security situation?

VREME: You took part in the Washington talks, and yet the Serbs are not included in the present Constitution of the new Bosnian Federation?

LAZOVIC: That is simple. It is not possible for Karadzic's Serbs to be a constitutive people two times: within the whole BH and then within the present federation. The Washington agreement is open to all. If Karadzic accepts the negotiations, then the Serbs within unitary Bosnia Herzegovina will receive the same status as other peoples. If not, the Serbs in Bosnia will really become a minority thanks to Karadzic's policy.

VREME: What will you do then?

LAZOVIC: In that case there is a possibility to attain adequate national rights, primarily civic and human rights, for the Serbs in BH, without their status of a constitutive nation.

VREME: What guarantees did Churkin have to offer you in Moscow?

PEJANOVIC: It was a nice surprise when he confirmed that the whole world is unanimous to save the integrity of BH. This is what he told us, ``Let the war stop for a year, even with temporary maps, and that will be long enough for the drunkards of war and for the extremists to leave their positions...'' We presented our views to him as well as those of all Serbs who disagree with Karadzic's policy.

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