Hundreds of Republika Srpska (RS) police officers marched through the central streets of the north-western town Banja Luka, in a solemn ceremony marking the unconstitutional holiday this semi-autonomous Bosnian entity marks on January 9.
Citizens who gathered to watch the parade cheered the echelon of the RS Interior Ministry which was led by a prototype of a locally produced armoured vehicle called ‘Despot’, while the marching police sang to the tunes of theRS anthem.
High-ranking Serb representatives from the RS and state-level institutions, as well as officials of neighbouring Serbia, attended the event which officially commenced on Tuesday with the laying of wreaths at a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the now defunct Army of Republika Srpska and resumed on Wednesday with the ceremonial march.
Bosnian Serb leader and Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, said that January 9th is a synonym for the freedom of the Serb people, which people have died for.
“That freedom is built upon the ruins of the former state. It is important for us to gather on January 9th as we are gathering because of our freedom, our identity, and everything that is important to a nation,” Dodik told reporters in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of the RS where the ceremony is taking place.
“Today is an important day in the history of Republika Srpska. I am proud that I am defending Srpska everywhere and I want the best for it, as I do for every individual who lives in it regardless of their religious or national affiliation,” Dodik said following a church ceremony served on the occasion of the RS Day.
RS authorities are marking the holiday on Wednesday despite a 2015 decision of the state-level Constitutional Court which acted upon a motion of a Bosniak politician and said that marking the RS Day on January 9 was unconstitutional.
According to the court, marking January 9 as the RS Day discriminates non-Serbs in this entity since this date is also the Orthodox day of St. Stephen.
RS authorities never approved the decision and continued observing the date.
Addressing the crowd after the solemn parade, RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic thanked all those who created RS and those who improved it in peace.
“I am sure that the RS preserved the love of our people and the power of our institutions. I know that the power of institutions and love of citizens will defend the RS forever in the future,” said Cvijanovic stressing it is “an obligation” to advocate for the interests of the RS.
The Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabic, who was previously decorated with the Order of Republika Srpska, said Serbia will always take special care of the RS citizens which is, according to her, “natural.”