news 13 Jun 13

Banja Luka Students Protest Against Corruption

Around 1,500 students and locals in Banja Luka protested on Wednesday, urging Republika Srpska authorities to assure better living standards for students and curb corruption in higher education.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN, Nezavisne
Sarajevo

Around 1,500 students and residents of Republika Srpka's largest city gathered on June 12 in defiance of a police ban to show dissatisfaction with crumbling living standards and their study conditions.

“My message to the government of Republika Srpska is to start fighting the criminals and corruption,” Republika Srpska’s student union president Nikola Dronjak said.

The protesters walked through the streets of Banja Luka and stopped in front of the building of the entity government, calling for the resignation of the entity education minister, Goran Mutabdzija and the dismissal of Rajko Vasic from the ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD.

The protesters called on the SNSD to kick out their executive secretary Vasic after he called dissatisfied students “bastards”, an insult that prompted many people to join the protests.

Vasic duly resigned, on June 9 but the students are now calling on the SNSD leader and president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, to expel him from the party.

Although police refused to issue a permit for the protest in Banja Luka, students gathered in front of the university campus and started the walk, where many local residents joined them.

“The protest has been forbidden because it is forbidden to say some things in Republika Srpska,” Dronjak said on Tuesday. “They can forbid protests and demonstrations but they cannot forbid us from showing our dissatisfaction in a peaceful way," he added.

Banja Luka police department then issued a statement ordering the students not to march near schools or kindergartens.

The student protests started in Banja Luka last Thursday, when students demanded the construction of a new block at their campus.

Later they added better living standards for students to their demands and also called for a fightback against corruption in higher education.

They called on the public to support them and struggle together against the “bad situation” in society and the “ruling oligarchy”.

On Tuesday, Dodik criticised the protest by students as politically motivated and as "arrogant", but said the authorities were ready to talk out any problems with them. However, their representatives have refused to meet him.

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