War Veterans Hold Protest Against HSS Leader Beljak

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, February 9, 2020 – An association of war veterans with PTSD staged a protest in Samobor on Sunday called “Stop hate speech and intolerance” at which they called on mayor and Croatian Peasant Party president Krešo Beljak to resign over “belittling the veterans’ sacrifice.”

Participants strongly condemned Beljak’s statement that the veterans who protested in Zagreb for months a few years ago were “a few drunks,” saying that constituted incitement to civil intolerance.

According to organisers’ estimates, the Samobor rally drew about 1,000 protesters. They displayed a banner saying “Croatia is a state of war veterans, not thieves.”

“Beljak should immediately step down from all political posts,” said psychiatrist Herman Vukušić.

He warned about the high number of suicides and said two veterans died daily at the age of 53 on average.

“The goal is to stop the civil war that has been going on in Croatia for some time, but without bullets,” he said, calling for stronger punishment for those who spread hate speech.

Tihomir Trešćec, president of the association, said the “hate rhetoric” was unacceptable. “Calling Croatian veterans a few drunks mustn’t be acceptable rhetoric in the public sphere. Among those few drunks were the parents, wives and children of killed defenders who are right to be outraged by such a statement.”

Trešćec said there should be more tolerance in public statements, notably by politicians, who he said were public figures and should watch what they said.

“They don’t realise that some statements affect people deeply, notably veterans with PTSD,” he said, adding that veterans from all over Croatia had come to today’s protest.

Josip Mahović, a former Samobor Brigade commander, said the political elite was a criminal organisation which did not care for the public but their own interest. He recalled that Veterans Minister Tomo Medved said he would move a law on the protection of the Homeland War that would envisage punishment for inappropriate statements.

Željko Kekić, a former agent of the Yugoslav secret service UDBA, said many went into the Homeland War under the salute “For the homeland ready”, an Ustasha salute that was shouted at today’s rally.

“Who has the strength to ban you from saying it? We live in a grotesque state that we didn’t want,” Kekić said.

Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) president Krešo Beljak said on Sunday he was not impressed by today’s veterans’ protest in Samobor, calling it an introduction into the election campaign that involved activists from the ruling party and saying he was not intimidated by that.

“They are panicking over what the HSS is advocating, to check the origin of assets and to review pensions, not necessarily veterans’ pensions. Someone feels threatened. Why should you or I fear a law whereby how someone acquired their assets would be checked,” Beljak said on a Croatian Television talk show.

“Those protesting today are self-proclaimed representatives of all veterans and I ask them, Where were you and why didn’t you protest when this state was being plundered during privatisation and today when there are scandals?” Beljak said.

He said he never said anything inappropriate against the Homeland War and that he “never called veterans a few drunks,” but “the people… who were harassing all of Zagreb and were toppling the then government (and) harassing former (Veterans) Minister Predrag Matić.”

Beljak said he was confident the coalition of the HSS, the Social Democratic Party and some other parties “will assume responsibility for Croatia’s future after the (parliamentary) election.”

Speaking of upcoming intra-party elections in the ruling HDZ, he said he wanted Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to be re-elected president “because he represents reason in that party and a dam against the most conservative part of Croatia which is gaining strength.”

He added, however, that he hoped Plenković would not remain prime minister after the parliamentary election.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.


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