“You can rarely see a citizen working honestly on fulfilling his life goals and one who believes in democracy! Citizens are no longer fighting for, or are interested about the collective rights of the community, but instead only for their personal rights, even if it means harming their loved ones! However, that is the story the political parties have sold us, which we, as citizens, are now playing”, stated the executive director of the non-governmental organization “ROMA S.O.S” from Prilep, Nesime Salioska in an interview for CIVIL Media.
CIVIL Media: Are the socially disadvantaged categories in Macedonia abused in a political or electoral context? What are your realizations and analysis?
SALIOSKA: I will answer this question through an example that will give further explanation, because I can notice that my colleagues have previously given very good explanations and I do not want to repeat the same replies. Concerned with the unregulated traffic in the settlement of Trizla, caused by negligent drivers, without proper documentation and age, of motor vehicles that are unregistered and not working, 27 Roma from that settlement have sent a letter to the local self-government, the police station in Prilep and in Bitola, and also the Ministry of Interior, in September. Two months have passed since this letter was submitted, and we have still not received and response. Our analysis on this situation shows that political parties do not want to take any activities during an election period and thereby endanger their action on the ground, that is, lose some of their supporters and voters. This is classic abuse of citizens by the institutions, which in the electoral context are even allowed to commit violations and criminal acts, all with the purpose of gaining the support of the citizens during elections, while at the same time, another part of that same category of citizens is not provided any protection in terms of their requests, regardless of their competence as part of a given institution. Here we can clearly see that the political parties are identifying their role with the institutions they are managing, and thus are prepared to put at risk even the safety and security of citizens, just so they can get the citizen’s vote. After the election process, we will be able to see that those same citizens will again be punished and be forbidden of taking additional actions, which makes those citizens doubly disadvantaged during the year.
CIVIL Media: Which promises for social justice are realistic, and which promises are a kind of political corruption, or are playing with the expectations of the voters?
SALIOSKA: The promises for fulfilling all of their requests and needs are unrealistic, that is, we can notice that political parties are accepting everything they hear from the citizens during their field visits, even when it concerns demands that are not feasible or ones that do not correspond to reality. But, since they are coming from a certain leader who is close to the party, then all of that is accepted with a promise that it will be realized. We need to have in consideration that social justice does not mean fulfilling the wishes of just one particular group, but rather fulfilling the needs of the entire community, which in reality can directly or indirectly change their everyday life. So, for example, in Trizla, again we have serious problems in regards to the safety of the citizens that need to be urgently solved, such as placing a fence along the channel in the settlement, by the so-called Dabnicka River, because in the past two years one child died there and another suffered minor injury. That same river is a source for contagious diseases, because local residents use it as a landfill. Also, in the community there are many parked, corroded and vehicles that cannot be used, which are also a source of infections, and also block traffic in the community. The street lighting does not work, or if you happen to pass by “Dabnicka” street after 6pm, you will feel as if you are passing by a horror street, because the competent services do not have time to replace the lights even after a month has passed after a damage has been reported?! And we are witnessing how major buildings are being built throughout the Municipality, with no specific purpose and with no response to the actual needs of the citizens.
CIVIL Media: What are the social and political consequences from abusing the issues in the area of social justice?
SALIOSKA: We can see everywhere around us aggressive and frustrated citizens, who in their struggle for life are even prepared to harm their friends and acquaintances, because of certain problems they are facing. We see increasingly more people seeking various ways of living outside of Macedonia, along with unqualified cadre coming out of the educational institutions where efforts are not made for acquiring knowledge and ambitions for independent functioning, as there is no hope for prosperity in Macedonia. You can rarely see an independent citizen working honestly on fulfilling his life goals and one who believes in democracy! We are living in total anarchy, thinking that we are exercising a certain democracy. Citizens are no longer fighting for, or are interested about the collective rights of the community, but only for their personal rights, and as I have emphasized, even if it means harming their loved ones! However, that is the story the political parties have sold us, which we, as citizens, are now playing
CIVIL Media: What can and what should the institutions, political parties, unions and civil society do in order to prevent the abuse of socially disadvantaged categories, and overall the topics in the area of social justice in the political and electoral context?
SALIOSKA: We need to continuously educate the socially vulnerable categories of citizens in regards to the election process and the right to vote, because they do not have the basic understanding about this, and this very situation contributes, actually, to all the manipulations that are being made by the political parties. We noticed this, especially this year, while organizing the campaign “What mark we will leave – you choose”, which is implemented with the support of the National Democratic Institute. In this past period, we visited six municipalities, more specifically, Roma communities, where in certain discussions we noticed that even though citizens responded affirmatively to the question on – whether they are included in the voters register and whether they vote during elections, that further along in the discussion in regards to the question – which everyday problems they face, they point out to the fact that they do not have ID cards, they do not have documentation and everything else…
We all know that the right to vote is realized with an ID card and only with a permanent place of residence in the voting place where you are registered. Because of this, we ask ourselves: how do these people vote? On the one hand, they say that they vote during elections, and on the other hand, they say that they do not have documentations, ID cards and a permanent place of residence?! Another thing we noticed is that during the field checks that were made for clearing the Voters Register, many of the Roma did not want to identify themselves before the State Election Commission, because they believe that their social financial assistance will be cancelled with this identification. And we believe that this is a result of the long-lasting threats they are receiving at their expense from political parties. Hence, a significant part of the Roma is still not registered in the Voters Register, or they are registered with incorrect data. On the day of the voting, again we noticed that they have the opportunity to vote, as someone from the local Roma leaders will be paid from the political parties, who mobilizes them and takes them to the voting place. In addition, they will also receive a threat that all their services or assistance they receive from the state will be cancelled, if they do not vote for a certain party! What is interesting is that during these discussions we came to a conclusion that the citizens really do believe that the political parties know who they are voting for behind the booth!
CIVIL – Center for Freedom is implementing the pilot project “Promises and Abuses”, which deals with abuse of social justice for political and electoral purposes. The goal of the project is to contribute to the strengthening of public awareness on abuses in the sphere of social justice in the electoral context, as well as to prevent manipulative practices of the political centers of power. The project is implemented in cooperation with the Heinrich Bὅll Foundation – Office in Sarajevo.