The Anti-Corruption Commission woke up the mayor of Saraj, Blerim Bexheti, from hibernation on the first day of spring.
After the members of the Anti-Corruption Commission announced that they would investigate whether there were traces of corruption in the case of the illegal construction at Matka, after a long silence Bexheti, first at a briefing with reporters, and then before TV cameras, said that the municipality would reject the requests for legalization of the three illegally built platforms.
However, they will not be demolished, at least not until the decisions become legally effective. The procedure for legalization is not legally limited, and hence the danger of dragging on the entire problem with the illegal buildings.
“The applicants for legalization will have the right to appeal to the second instance commission within the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and then they can open an administrative dispute. We want to act as required by the laws,” Bexheti said.
Asked why the Municipality has not yet refused the requests for legalization which, as he said, were submitted a year ago and it was allowed in the meantime for them to be upgraded and be opened for business, Bexheti said that there are no legal deadlines that limit his actions.
The request for legalization of one of the platforms, the one on which there is a restaurant, has already been rejected, but the applicants have appealed. The rejected request is from the Federation of Mountain Sports of Macedonia. Regarding this case, the Municipality and the Macedonian Orthodox Church are also in legal dispute, and until this is completed, as Bexheti says, nothing can be done.
Legalization of the new platform was demanded by Ismail Saidi, and the request for legalization of the platform, on which boats are already being rented, was submitted by Amet Saidi. Unofficially, the first person rents the boats on the second platform. Bexheti, who tried to hide their identity at the briefing, but after reporters insisted, he however, did reveal their names, but was unable to tell whether they were related.
On the basis of the requests for legalization, the Municipality, as Bexheti claims, is solely responsible.
“Of course, we should also ask for opinions from other institutions, such as the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Culture given the nature of the site. But I did not ask for such a thing, because I did not think that they should be legalized,” Mayor Bexheti said.
According to Bexheti, the concept of Matka is much more important than making hasty decisions without adhering to the procedures. In that direction, he mentioned the cave, which is not managed by anyone, although it has a magnetic force for the large number of tourists visiting Matka.
He claims that all kinds of interests were intertwined in the beautiful landscape, but he did not want to say whose interests. Bexheti says that Matka was also discussed with the previous government, and his predecessor, Bekim Murati, had conflict situations. At the government session, during the time of the Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski discussed the adoption of a law on Matka, which would put order in the construction of the canyon.
The current problem, he said, began after he was informed by the Mayor of Skopje, Petre Shilegov that the City plans to establish a Public Enterprise for managing Matka, even without his consent. He doubts that the City wants to take advantage of the situation and take away his credentials.
“Along with the City of Skopje and Louisa Vinton of UNDP, UNDP’s permanent representative until recently, we have already discussed how to develop this area. I first pointed out to the institutions that Matka has not one but three platforms, some of which have been built a long time ago and we have inherited. Even then, I have made it clear that I am not inclined to legalize these constructions,” Bexheti said.
He complained that the City of Skopje had sent an inspector without informing the Municipality of Saraj. “There are still inspections without informing us,” Bexheti said, adding that it was not a matter of mutual intolerance with Shilegov, but, as he pointed out, for conceptual differences.
The arbitrariness of the municipal authorities and the complete institutional blockade forced the Anti-Corruption Commission to react and investigate the case with the illegal constructions at Matka, which showed the painful truth once again – that anyone in this country could usurp public spaces and do as they please.
While the institutions played ping-pong around who would take responsibility for Matka’s rampage, the construction of the disputed platform did not stop. Mayor Petre Shilegov said that the City has no authority to demolish the illegal construction, from the Ministry of Transport and Communications the responsibility was transferred to the State Inspectorate for Construction and Urban Planning, which was supposed to give its opinion, but ultimately this state institution and the Inspection Council concluded that they are not competent, because it was about local constructions.
Minister Sugareski announced yesterday that he would ask the inspectorates for precise and specific information not only for the platforms and weekend-houses in the protected area of Matka, but also for the beaches in Struga and the construction of the mosque in Ohrid – cases that obviously caused problems in the government coalition.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Environment Jani Makraduli recently said that the illegal construction of Matka is inaccessible and adversely affect nature. They must be regulated as soon as possible. For this purpose, a law that will strictly regulate what can and cannot be built at Matka is in the final phase of preparation.