A Sinjajevina “Katun” choir requested the cancelling of the decision on the military training ground and the recognition of a community protected area

● The Civic Initiative “Save Sinjajevina” and representatives of local livestock communities gathered  12th July 2021 in Petrovdan (Saint Peter’s day) at Savina’s lake to claim the two strategic goals of their future work regarding Sinjajevina.

● The revocation of the decision of the past Government of Montenegro to establish a military training ground on Mount Sinjajevina is the main goal.

● Moreover, they claim the proclamation of Sinjajevina as a protected area co-designed and co-governed by local communities.

At the moment when a military helicopter did a reconnaissance flight over Savina’s waters, the gathered citizens and representatives of local communities in Saint Peter’s day (Petrovdan, 12th July 2021) hoped for the Minister of Defense Olivera Injac to inform the Katunians one day that there would be no more military training or activity in the territory ever again.

However, the previous evening, the 11th of July, the camp on Sava Waters was visited by her homologue the Minister of Agriculture, Aleksandar Stijović, who had a conversation with the local farmers, gathered citizens and association members present, and expressed a deep understanding of the natural and livestock potential of Sinjajevina.

The gathering of Petrovdan was opened by the leader of Save Sinjajevina association, Milan Sekulović, who after welcoming everybody in the first celebration of Petrovdan after more than 20 years and that wished to recuperate this tradition of gathering different Sinjajevina tribes around the beautiful Savina lake, said that only with the unity of Sinjajevinas can we defend ourselves, just as it had been done so far. He thanked everyone who had helped the defense of Sinjajevina, because only unity and courage had saved Sinjajevina from the bombs that were stored for it in October last year.

He reminded that the gathering was preceded by an art colony, led by Todor Jovanović and then passed the word to the different local communities’ representatives.

Danilo Vukovic from Mojkovac stated that the gathering on St. Peter’s Day was not accidental, but earlier there was a tradition that on that day people gathered on Sava Lake, and on Ilindan near the Church of Ruzica. He pointed out that it is very good that the tradition of the Petrovdan gathering on Sava’s waters is being renewed.

On behalf of the residents of Lipovo, Velimi Raosavljević said that Sinjajevina should not be poisoned in any way, referring so also to the detritus that bombs leave behind, because that would mean poisoning the healthy food, water and air that are the life of Kolašin, but also of the rest of Montenegro.

Milovan Dedeić from Štitar stated that the fight for the salvation of Sinjajevina will be supported, but also the work to improve the living conditions in it, because that way it will be best protected !

On behalf of Uskok and Drobnjak, Mihailo Bulatović said that every fight requires time, ceiling and harmony, because that is how Bukovica is defended, so it will be the same with Sinjajevina. He pointed out that Sinjajevina’s danger was a for Uskoks and Drobnjaks as well, and that the people must not relax, but fight to protect it until the end, and do not trust any government much. “The decision on the landfill should be revoked as soon as possible, it is not clear to me how it has not already been done, but it seems that not much has changed”, stated Bulatović.

On behalf of the Bjelopavlić cattle breeders, Marijan Jovanović said that Sinjajevina should be left to the offspring as we inherited it, and that the Bjelopavlići will always be on the defensive side of clean and ecological Sinjajevina.

According to Veska Lakić from the Bijeli Pavle Association, only those who are not aware of the potential and wealth that Sinjajevina means, could have decided to transform it into a military training ground. He pointed out that it is good to renew folk traditions and that the Bjeplopavlićs welcome the renewal of the assembly on Sava’s waters, and that we should gather every year for St. Peter’s Day and Ilindan to celebrate the beauty of Sinjajevina.

Velizar Drljević, a cattle breeder from Vraneš in Bijelo Polje, said that the choirs would be bigger and stronger in the future, that the katuns should be strengthened, and people should be returned to them. “Let’s be more united and massive, that way we will be better, and Sinjajevina will be safer as well”, stated Drljević.

Mileva Gara Jovanović caused a special enthusiasm at the gathering, saying that she is the daughter of Sinjajevina, but also that other people who live in that region are children of that mountain like her. “Children should unanimously defend their mother, and not give it to anyone. I was thrilled To see how many people came to Margite to defend our Sinjajevina last autumn. We should continue to do that. As the mother has space for all the children, so Sinjajevina has space for all of us. I therefore calls us to be united and strong, because that is the only way we can preserve her”, stated Jovanović.

She pointed out that our people can do everything, only when they want, and that so far they have shown that they want to preserve Sinjajevina as well. “We’re here to decide. We do not give Sinjajevina, we will defend it with our bodies, we do not need weapons, the heart of a hero is enough”, said Gara.

After the different interventions, the representative of Save Sinjajevina, Petar Glomazić, stated that the national unity shown at the protests organized in October, November and December 2020 defended the mountain and prevented its hills from being bombarded. He pointed out that the first big and important battle was won, but that the job is far from being finished yet.

“We are awake, we have not fallen asleep, we have taken the first step. Sinjajevina is not only a question of Montenegro, but also of the wider region of the Balkans, of Europe and of the World. We worked to get the support of the world and we got it. The problem we have is not new, it has been faced by people in Italy, Morocco, France, India and still is ongoing in many places. The decision on the military training ground must be put out of force and we still did not achieve a legally binding agreement from the new government, but we really did not hope that seven months after the protest on Margita, we would gather today on Sava’s waters with not one single bomb dropped since then even if we are right now stepping on a still officially military training ground”, Glomazić pointed out.

He also stated that the second strategic goal of Save Sinjajevina is for Sinjajevina to be a protected area whose fate will be decided by the local communities.

“When the wisdom of the local populations is used and respected this place will be a place of prosperity”, said Glomazić.

At the end of the Katun assembly CNRS researcher Pablo Dominguez explained how Sinjajevina’s case was presented in several important international contexts, as the European Parliament, UNESCO, ICCA consortium, the International Land Coalition among others as well as different Universities, and confirmed that the defense of Sinjajevina had wide support among them as well as a strong potential of growth, because people are being able to understand the significance of the struggle and the natural, cultural and political importance of that mountain and its local communities. As he pointed out, in order for international organizations to continue to support the efforts to protect and promote Sinjajevina, it is necessary for those who gravitate around that mountain to be united.

“International organizations will have a hard time to talk to 50 or 100 people at the same time. It will be much easier for them to dialogue with you if you have one voice. In that sense, Save Sinjajevina members will visit all villages during the next year and knock on the doors of the houses in Kolašin, Mojkovac, Šavnik, Žabljak, Danilovgrad and Bijelo Polje municipalities, to work with you, to hear what you who use Sinjajevina have to propose for its defense, what issues you have and how you can present your situation abroad in a unified manner. With a unified position in defense of your territory, you will be able to apply to the United Nations to recognize Sinjajevina as an area protected by the local communities. And from University and other international organizations we will be more than happy to help you and accompany you in the process“, said Dominguez.

All the defenders of Sinjajevina have a lot of work ahead of them, and it will last even years maybe, but in some countries, battles like the one of Sinjajevina were fought for over a decade until they succeeded.

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