Have gostivar students been poisoned with gas or politics?
The Prosecution in Gostivar and the police force are working hard to shed light on the alleged case of gas poisoning at a secondary school in Gostivar on Friday afternoon. The Institute of Forensic Medicine in Skopje also joined the investigation. The Prosecution said they would produce information soon, Nova Makedonija reports.
According to Doctor Andon Cibisev, director of the toxicology clinic in Skopje, the first 12 patients arrived at the clinic at about 19.45 hrs on Friday and another three about an hour and a half later. One of them refused to stay at the hospital and of those who remained five were adults (four teachers and one member of the school security).
"We cannot establish how long they were in the medical center in Gostivar because they made different statements. Some said they were taken to hospital at about 15.00 and others that everything happened a little later. According to our rough estimate, the first 12 patients came to Skopje after being treated at the hospital in Gostivar for at least four hours," Dr. Cibisev said and also explained that through medical examinations and analyses were undertaken.
The patients from Gostivar complained of having sore eyes and scratchy throats, as few of them also reported they had troubles breathing.
Dr. Cibisev told Nova Makedonija that none of the clinical analyses proved positive for poisoning. He also said that none of the patients said they had smelled something or seen smoke.
"This is different from what they said in Gostivar. Our colleague from the hospital in Gostivar told us they said they smelled something. Thirty to sixty minutes of being hospitalized, all patients said they felt better," Dr. Cibisev said.
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska visited the patients shortly after being hospitalized.
"The prime minister talked to them and they told him they felt better. After he left, a little after 23.00, they rushed outside for a chat. Some of them even lighted cigarettes. About half an hour after midnight, they said they wished to go home. Although we insisted that they remain, they signed statements that they would leave the hospital at their own responsibility," Dr. Cibisev said.
The remaining few patients left the clinic the following morning.
"The toxicological analyses are being done at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in coordination with the Interior Ministry. The moment the results are over, we are going to inform. For the time being, none of the completed analyses is positive for gas poisoning," Dr. Cibisev said.
In the light of the initial medical results, the public and primarily the political analysts that Nova Makedonija talked to say that the case is strange, mysterious and utterly suspicious. Prime Minister Gruevski also said he had an opinion but would refrain from voicing it before all analyses were over. It is too early to say whether anyone is tempering with interethnic relations taking advantage of school children.
Political analyst Ivica Bocevski says what happened has to be approached very carefully.
"We still remember the so-called ethnic poisoning in Kumanovo in the 1980s, which proved to be an attempt at harming interethnic relations. We should wait for the final results first, yet we should warn all those having hidden agendas that all their plans this time round will be thwarted. The Macedonian public is very sensitive and insightful and will not fall for any provocation. Nor will those masterminding provocation go unpunished," he says.
Analyst Vladimir Bozinovski does not believe that anyone would fall for the interethnic provocation either.
"I don't think this case can affect the inter-ethnic relations and generate instability. We should definitely wait for the official results from the toxicology clinic in Skopje and from the hospital in Gostivar. It is a little strange though that this happened in Gostivar, which has always been regarded as a more relaxed city when it comes to interethnic relations and this fact however, decreases the possibility of the case being a setup. Therefore, it is best to wait for the results," he stressed.
Pavle Trajanov, leader of the Democratic Un-ion and former Interior Minister, says that a lot of incidents having a lot in common with the latest one in Gostivar happened in the past.
"Only since Macedonia's independence, as I remember, there have been at least four major registered cases of alleged mass poisoning and the investigation in all of them showed they were all manipulation to harm national security," he explains.
In his view, the domestic cases of hysteria over alleged gas poisoning can only be com-pared to those in Kosovo during ex-Yugoslavia. He also says that if the police investigation shows there has been no gas poisoning, it could easily be concluded that those responsible for it aim to present Macedonia as a country that is still immature and unsafe.
Dnevnik reports that two stories are speculated in Gostivar about what truly stands behind the Friday gas poisoning. According to the first one, a student scattered tear gas in a bid to skip classes that day and according to the second one, a political factor is heating up the situation in the run-up to the presidential elections. Gostivar Mayor Nevzat Bejta dismisses the first possibility and refuses to comment on the second.
"If students had wanted to skip classes, they would have found some other excuse," he says.
Sources from the three Albanian parties, BDI, PDSH and RDK, say that the incident is in-deed strange. Nobody wishes to comment and they all say they are waiting for the results of the toxicological analyses and the examination of the video camera recordings. They doubt how-ever that in this way tension is being heated up in the run-up to elections.
It is peaceful in Gostivar. Mayor Bejta says that although the incident is serious and local Albanians are slightly upset considering it happened only to ethnic Albanian students, there are no reasons for interethnic tension or problems. Together with the local police, he intends to tour all schools in Gostivar Monday and take protective measures.