Subrata Roy [middle] and PM Nikola Gruevski [left] | Photo by: mia
The so-called peace festival held in the capital, Skopje, on Tuesday night, included Indian dance groups and a splendid firework display that was broadcast live on national television.
The spectacle thrown on Skopje’s main square by Roy’s Sahara Group, which previously announced major investments in the country, was attended by the Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, and most of the cabinet.
The party was set for October 2 in order to coincide with the birthday of the Indian peace icon and independence hero Mahatma Gandhi.
“I was searching for a country without corruption to stage the first festival [of peace] and decided to choose Macedonia,” Roy said at the opening in front of thousands of spectators.
“I am very happy to be here in the city [the birthplace] of Mother Teresa. I was very close to Mother Teresa,” Roy said.
On Wednesday, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Skopje to attend the adjacent conference dedicated to peace.
In a 40-minute speech Blair praised Macedonia for coming a long way from the 2001 conflict and expressed his hope that the country would soon join the European Union.
Subrata Roy first visited Macedonia in mid-June, when he received a warm welcome from Prime Minister Gruevski and his economic team.
Later he revealed his plans to build a luxury recreational complex on the shores of Lake Ohrid, somewhat controversially in the middle of a UNESCO-protected heritage zone.
UNESCO has said it will send a team to investigate the plans.
Roy also announced a 211-million-euro investment in a cattle farm in central Macedonia that will produce some 300,000 litres of milk per day. These plans have met a skeptical response from some local farmers who have deemed them unrealistic.
Photo by: mia
In January, during a fresh visit to Macedonia, Roy laid grounds for a new 30-metre-high statue dedicated to the Mother Teresa, whose construction he is going to fund himself.
While politicians seem wowed by the attention, many average Macedonians are unconvinced.
Subrata Roy “is too good to be true. I do not trust him at all”, pensioner Milan Popovski told Balkan Insight.
“He does not seem serious. This festival won’t change my mind,” a middle-aged passerby on Skopje’s main square said.
An opinion poll commissioned by the Fokus weekly last month showed that 41 per cent of respondents completely discounted Roy’s investment promises. Only 6 per cent of the respondents placed absolute trust in Roy’s plans.
Macedonians recently heard about Roy’s troubles back in India where a court has charged him with tax evasion and frozen all of his assets there.
According to reports, he has also been ordered to repay some 4.5 billion dollars that he owed depositors in one of his companies.
“Roy is rich but he is also a world-class manipulator. He owes his own country billions, but abroad he squanders that same money that he owes the Indian poor,” a former Macedonian ambassador to NATO, Nano Ruzin, said.
Ruzin told Deutsche Welle that the “Phenomenon called Subrata Roy” might prove damaging for the country’s image, and for Prime Minister Gruevski, in the end.