Parties condemn Muslim politician's "inflammatory rhetoric"
Sulejman Ugljanin's statement referring to Serbia as “a chauvinist creation” carrying out discrimination against Bosniaks has been met with condemnation.Source: Tanjug
The reactions mostly came from officials of other political parties representing Bosniaks.
Ugljanin is the leader of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) of Sandzak, chairman of the Bosniak National Council (BNV), and has in the past served as minister in several Serbian governments.
He is one of the political leaders of Bosniaks (Muslims) in Serbia's southwestern Raska District, known informally as Sandzak.
Ugljanin made the controversial statement during when he addressed a protest in Novi Pazar on February 20, during which his supporters carried a banner reading “Sandzak-autonomy," Tanjug reported.
“We want to turn the chauvinist creation called Serbia into a democratic, modern, European state,” he said.
Ugljanin called on Bosniaks to resolve problems through institutions and the parliament, saying that if need be, he would ask for “NATO's assistance to come and protect Bosniaks”.
“Such accusations can only be uttered by someone who is a chauvinist or hypocrite, or both,” said Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic, himself a Bosniak from Novi Pazar, who leads the Social-Democratic Party of Serbia (SDPS).
He pointed to the fact that only several months ago Ugljanin was a cabinet minister, and that at the time of the protest in Novi Pazar, SDA of Sandzak vice president and president of the municipality of Tutin Semsudin Kucevic asked for government funds for construction of roads in that Bosniak-majority municipality.
He said that for the activities aimed at preserving the Bosniak identity, the BNV gets EUR 20,000 on a monthly level, and posed a question as to why he takes that money if he thinks that Serbia is a chauvinistic state?
Ljajic accused Ugljanin of bringing two percent of the population in confrontation with the state, and said that his statement “provoked negative reactions from ambassadors of Arab countries” in Belgrade.
He noted that the protest in Novi Pazar resembled “a political funeral”, with 357 people in attendance, including SDA supporters from Ugljanin's electorate in Tutin, and noted that this is “the beginning of the end of this party”.
Meho Omerovic, chair of the Serbian parliament's committee on human and minority rights, said that what Ugljanin was doing was "in contravention of the Constitution of Serbia."
"This is a very cheap political propaganda,” Omerovic said, underscoring that “the very inflammatory rhetoric” that Ugljanin is using could only be detrimental to the Bosniak people.
Reacting to Wednesday's decision of the caucus of the Party of Democratic Action of Sandzak (SDA) - Party of Democratic Action (PDD) to boycott the work of the committee, Omerovic said it was "expected", and urged members of Ugljanin's party to also "leave the management boards of public enterprises where they get paid by such a country."
SDA Sandzak has three MPs, including caucus whip Sulejman Ugljanin, while Saip Kamberi and Riza Haljimi are MPs of the caucus of PDD as a party active in Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja.
Husein Memic, chair of the city committee of the Sandzak Democratic Party (SDP), said that the protest in Novi Pazar was “another proof that Ugljanin has privatized the BNV and made it pointless”.
According to him, "Ugljanin is to blame for many problems facing Bosniaks in Sandzak, including the split in the Islamic community."
"Ugljanin should hand in his resignation, and spare Bosniaks further scandals and humiliations," Memic underlined.
Emir Elfic, president of the Bosniak Democratic Community (BDZ), said that Ugljanin's rhetoric damages relations not only with the government, but also with the Serbi community in Sandzak.
Leader of the Sandzak People's Party (SNP) Mirsad Djerlek said that the government should revoke Ugljanin's immunity so that he could be held accountable for “a rough violation of the Constitution and insult to the state”.
He said that the SNP advocates for “a cultural autonomy of Bosniaks within Serbia” and that it “will not back the nationalistic, even chauvinistic policy of the SDA.”
The committee of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) responsible for the area of Raska condemned Ugljanin's "hate speech" at the protest, stressing that his claims concerning the discrimination and endangerment of Bosniaks are "not true."
This party noted that the SDA leader's claims are aimed at causing a stir among citizens of the area of Raska, in which Serbs and Bosniaks are equally hit by the adverse economic situation.
The DSS described as "particularly dangerous Ugljanin's statement that he would call on NATO to help Bosniaks, which constitutes a call for an occupation of Serbia, or another part of its territory beside Kosovo”, and said that this is why it expects a reaction from relevant state bodies.
Speaker calls on MPs to rejoin committee
Serbian Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic called on the caucus of the Party of Democratic Action of Sandzak (SDA) - Party of Democratic Action (PDD) to revise their decision to boycott the Committee on Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality and keep participating in the work of the body instead.
Gojkovic told reporters in parliament that in this way, "they would be doing the best kind of work in the interest of the citizens who invested their confidence in them and appointed them to be their representatives in the Serbian parliament."