TUE, 12 MAR 1996 22:21:34 GMT
Montenegro and "Serb Herzegovina"
In fact, it is a sad story. Bozidar Vucurovic, as an official, acted quite appropriately when recently humanitarian trucks and Montenegrin statesmen arrived in Trebinje as part of a comprehensive operation named "People and Government of Montenegro for Serb Herzegovina". He kissed his guests three times, as protocol requires; a little in verses, a little in prose, he delivered a suitable speech for the occasion; and general festivities followed; however, in a feature-length report of Montenegrin state television, he was neither seen nor heard. Only in the latest issue of Podgorica magazine "Istok", he managed to send word to the concerned Montenegrin public that he too had participated in humaneness in action. At the same time, he expressed his due appreciation to the editors of Montenegrin television who had cut the film so expertly that it was impossible to even see Vucurovic's shadow.
The enthusiasm of the regime and its media with Dayton Agreement was still mounting when President Momir Bulatovic and his fellow-fighters decided to introduce a new entity within the internationally recognized Bosnia & Herzegovina - "Serb Herzegovina". Along with Bosnia which ceased to be "former B&H" in state media, "Serb Herzegovina" appeared (with a capital "S", of course) which once again urged speculations about real reasons for this new pushing the brethren from Herzegovina.
The whole affair has quite an exciting course of development. Those who used to send ideas, arms and warriors across the border are sending flour now and getting ready to build a cemetery. Montenegrin authorities know very well what is most urgent: peace for the dead and bread for the living. The only thing left for the Herzegovinians to do is to be grateful and distribute properly supplies of charity. This is no joke - in the past attack of humaneness, they received "enough food for fifteen thousand households to survive a whole month on according to world standards". The Government's and the people's flour is expected to play a significant role at home too: it should heal defects on the electorate which are a sum of all developments since forces from Montenegro crossed the Neretva river all the way to Dayton. Thanks to the Montenegrin opposition, it was impossible to completely forget that before the beginning, the Herzegovinians were promised the exit to the sea-coast, the Neretva river valley and at least half of the city of Mostar. Union of all Serb lands was self-understood. Nowadays, after all that has happened, they have remained alone in the rocky land and for quite some time now, various signals have been arriving from there that it is dawning on them who they should thank for everything they have accomplished in life. In order to forestall such possibilities, the all-Serb national committee entrusted Montenegro with tutorship of Herzegovina. That is why Montenegrin authorities created a new entity after Dayton - "Serb Herzegovina". Just before the sudden urge of humaneness, a hundred odd Herzegovinians visited the Chamber of the Economy in Podgorica in order to plan a general "mutual integration". The hosts were not thrifty in giving promises and now the Herzegovinians have just to sit back and wait for Herzegovina to transform into a country similar to Switzerland thanks to powerful Montenegrin giant enterprises. In principle, all necessary preparations have been made "for us to become one" - details such as the Dayton Agreement, when brethren are unanimous, cannot be a serious obstacle. Montenegro would especially prosper from a union of resources -its rock reserves have seriously diminished, so the Herzegovinian cliffs would in that sense be beneficial.
The civic-society oriented Montenegrin authorities have paid their humanitarian visit to all municipalities in eastern Herzegovina and Foca, and it was announced that soon it will also pay a visit to Trnovo which seems to be included in "Serb Herzegovina" - although its is practically a suburb of Sarajevo. President Bulatovic in person headed the first tour to Ljubinja. Then all those who have a prominent post in the Democratic Party of Socialists were assigned a location to visit. The grateful hosts readily adorned their toasts with the hope that "time has come for the brethren to unite". Generous guests responded adequately, condescendingly. Just as an illustration: "We have come to administer the oath of our forefathers and to exercise the choice of present generations that Montenegro and Serb Herzegovina always be united through fair and foul", Montenegrin minister Miladin Vukotic remarked inspired during takeover of flour in Cajnice. A certain interruption in brotherly love, blockade of borders while NATO bombers shot at selected targets around Herzegovina was not mentioned, for the sake of being polite to the distinguished guests. Probably for the same reason, none of the guests remembered to ask the hosts where their neighbours, Boshniaks and Croats were, and just so as not to be moved, they turned their heads away while passing by ploughed foundations of the destroyed Aladza.
At the same time in Montenegro, in daily news program of state television, a long list of charitable people was read every evening: pensioners, workers, veterans of all wars, conscientious pioneers and the rest of the social community. The zeal seemed to have returned from the beginning of the war, when Montenegrin reserve forces were seen off to the Neretva valley in order to help the unarmed Serbs to regulate their relations with the neighbours. While brave warriors were settling accounts in "Serb Mostar" and its surroundings, a competition who would offer them more help in logistics went on at home. Everybody was expected to participate. Now that the results are here - it would not be fair to let the glorious days be forgotten. In the meantime, the Serbs from Herzegovina were deprived of Mostar, and now they are choosing location to build a new one. Dubrovnik market was also lost, but hope of a new market opening for them arrived along with humanitarian convoys - Niksic. This is not a story only about flour and cans. When chairman of the republican Assembly, Svetozar Marovic, headed the tour to Trebinje, Nikola Koljevic revealed another important, secretly planned activity. "Montenegrin authorities have taken the responsibility to build an appropriate cemetery for the Serb knights killed around Sarajevo", Koljevic blurted out in front of the cameras. Later, this statement was neatly deleted in state-owned media, and the authorities are heroically passing this whole project in silence. The question is whether in Montenegro, such as it is, construction of a cemetery for those who have lay down their lives for the sake of killing Sarajevo, would be worth its while to the authorities.
This is not the first time that the Montenegrin authorities and Serb-oriented opposition are casting their glances across the border. In March 1994, when it seemed that there was no cure for Bosnia, after the congress of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, a vulture circled the skies over Herzegovina. The proposal made by President Bulatovic to have "that historic aspiration and century-old destiny of ours" annexed to Montenegro was welcomed with ovations. Some time before that, the President of the National Party was even more enterprising in his geography: in a moment of inspiration, Dr. Novak Kilibarda proposed that, along with Herzegovina, Metohija be annexed to Montenegro as well. He even prescribed a democratic method for achieving it: the Herzegovinians would do it voluntarily after a referendum, and the Albanians would, naturally, have no say about the matter.
For the time being, Metohija has been left to Milosevic to take care of it, and now that peace has come, and the elections are approaching, the Democratic Party of Socialists has made up its mind to turn Herzegovina into its election slogan. As leaders of the National Party are not naive concerning this matter, it is expected that these two parties, former war mates, will both enter the battle for voters with Herzegovina on their lips.
Momir Bulatovic and his followers have correctly calculated that results of marches to the Danube and the Drina were most disconcerting for the voters who had believed that they would be the ones who would most successfully work for the Serb cause together with Slobodan Milosevic. In any case, leaders of the ruling DPS have not much choice: this autumn they will have to convince their voters who used to believe them that operations across the Drina were proceeding as planned, that sovereign Bosnia and Croatia were not such a bad outcome after all. On the contrary, the DPS will lose absolute majority, which would be pure tragedy for Montenegro, as Miodrag Vukovic, one of its ideologists, recently concluded in his analysis.
Ever since the ruling Socialists put forward flour as an argument, Nationalists who are in general more consistent in their Serbism, keep reminding them every day "who led the people to war and left them in the lurch". They too believed that the project was quite proper - only the bad managers were bad. It is interesting that the leader of the National Party, Dr. Novak Kilibarda seems to be becoming more openly a fan of the name and work of Franjo Tudjman. In the past few days, practically repeating the words of the Croat President, he even proposed a precise measure. "The ruling party should find a way", he believes, "to fulfil the wish to vote of those Montenegrins who live and work in Herzegovina". It is not hard to guess how numerous the population of Montenegrins living in the deserted neighbourhood is, so Dr. Kilibarda is not naive: if Herzegovina Serbs and Montenegrins are "one", why would not they, by the model of Croatia, as the "diaspora", have their representatives in the Montenegrin parliament. Bulatovic's brotherly love does not appear to reach that far and he has no intention to check what side the Herzegovinians would turn.
Using Herzegovina as an election slogan is actually an ancient cruel game with human fear. It is not easy for the needy population over there to admit what has brought them down to the situation to be greteful hosts to humanitarian expeditions. It will not be easy for them to call their neighbours whom they had sent away to come home and look them in the eye, nor will it be simple to come across towns they have, with the help of the "People's Army", so cruelly turned into ruins. Their choice is simple: until they decide to touch these sores, they will keep their hands stretched to receive charity and serve as a psychological crutch for settling of somebody else's accounts. It is no problem to understand why Herzegovinians nowadays wish to believe that Niksic could replace Dubrovnik for them and that at a convenient spot, a new Mostar will crop up. Maybe one should not even expect from people so much courage that is needed to face the truth so soon. Montenegrin authorities take almost entire responsibility for launching the new lie - whether Herzegovina operation is their invention or they are doing it by someone else's order actually makes no difference. The official Montenegro certainly is pragmatic: as soon as the world corners it and warns it not to play uniters, Bulatovic will again, if need be, double the sentries on the border.
Esad KOCAN AIM Podgorica