Celebrating January 9th as the 'Day of Republika Srpska' is in line with the Constitution, and a "negative climate" has unnecessarily been created because of the Wednesday celebration, Bosnian Serb Parliamentarian Lazar Prodanovic told N1 on Thursday.
“We will never stop marking that day,” Prodanovic said.
The Constitutional Court banned the celebration of the Day of the RS in 2015, saying the celebration falls on the same date as an Orthodox religious holiday, and celebrating it is, therefore, discriminating against the non-Serbs living in the Serb-dominated semi-autonomous entity within Bosnia.
The Court gave the RS Government six months to find a new date for the celebration but the request has so far been ignored.
RS authorities, most notably those from the ruling party of then-RS President Milorad Dodik, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), but also from Bosnian Serb opposition parties, contested the decision and called for the adoption of constitutional amendments that would remove foreign judges from the Constitutional Court, whom they blame of siding with Bosniaks.
The RS Government also organised a referendum within Republika Srpska asking citizens whether January 9 should be celebrated anyway and citizens voted in favour.
In 2016, the RS Day celebration took place and was visited by, among others, the then-Prime Minister of neighbouring Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic.
By the end of the year, the RS National Assembly adopted a Law on the Day of RS, in which it officially declared January 9 as the Day of the RS and as a secular holiday.
“This Law on the Day of the RS is not breaching the Constitution or the constitutional structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina in any way. I believe a negative climate was created unnecessarily around it,” Prodanovic said, adding that he saw Bosniak ministers in the RS Government at the celebration as well on Wednesday.
Prodanovic said that years before, in 2006, Bosniak representatives from Sarajevo had also attended the ceremonies.
“I know that the Day of the RS was disputed because of the part considering religious events, and with the adoption of a new law that part was definitely changed,” he said.
January 9th is for Serbs a symbol “for their right to be equal to other peoples,” he said. “I am convinced that any date proposed would be disputed, in this case by the Bosniaks.”
He also commented on the criticism targeting Croatia’s Ambassador to Bosnia, Ivan Del Vechio, who visited Banja Luka during the celebration, saying that he did not see him at the ceremony, but asked why it would be a problem if he did attend.
The attendance of Dragan Covic, the leader of the main Croat ethnic-oriented party in Bosnia, the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), was met with criticism as well.
“Imagine if I would turn Covic’s attendance at the November 25 or March 1 ceremonies into a problem,” Prodanovic said, referring to the dates of Bosnia’s Statehood Day and Independence Day, which most RS politicians refuse to celebrate.