Albanians accuse IM, defend memorial to terror group

PREŠEVO -- The leaders of ethnic Albanian parties in southern Serbia believe that a memorial set up in honor of killed UCPMB members was "not a provocation".

A scene from Bujanovac (Beta, file)
A scene from Bujanovac (Beta, file)

They also qualified as "a threat" a statement made by PM and Interior Minister Ivica Dačić on Wednesday.

Dačić said yesterday that the memorial plaque for the members of the so-called Liberation Army of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa (UCPMB; OVPMB) in downtown Preševo represented an unnecessary provocation to which the state must react, and advised those who put it up to remove it themselves.

However, the political leaders of ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia say that the monument represented "an act of attention and memory of the young Albanians from southern Serbia who died in 2001".

The terrorist group was an offshoot of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA; UCK), and was disbanded in 2001. After the end of the war in Kosovo, they staged hundreds of attacks against Serbian police, Yugoslav military, local officials in the area, and UN personnel.

One of the group's former commanders, and until recently president of the Bujanovac municipal assembly, Jonuz Musliu, also criticized Dačić on Thursday. Musliu, who is now leader of the Movement for Democratic Progress party, said that ethnic Albanians were "in favor of solving all conflicts peacefully" and that the prime minister "will have to look elsewhere for a partner for war and warmongering".

The party's officials also stressed that "all who perished in 2001 were someone's children, who deserve their names not to be forgotten", while vice president of the party Nedzat Beluli "appealed for a coolheaded approach, because this is not a time to produce problem," Tanjug reported.

"After 2001, dozens of monuments have been built for civilians, soldiers, policemen, fighters of the UCPMB. Just now in Lučani, a monument is being built for the members of the Gendarmerie. That's why I do not see any reason for this monument in Preševo to receive a reaction like this," said Beluli.

The leader of the Democratic Union of the Valley Skender Destani told Tanjug that he was "not surprised" by Dačić's reaction. "I expected nothing else from him. Dačić's statement is scandalous, threatening and shameful. It is not becoming of a prime minister at all. If all the members of the Liberation Army received amnesty, what right does he have to openly threaten Albanians," wondered Destani.

Leader of the Democratic Union of Albanians Rahmi Zulfiu also spoke for the national agency to say that he "did not expect such a reaction from the prime minister":

"The memorial for the young Albanians who died should not have to be a reason for such a threatening message. I also think that such statements are unbecoming of the prime minister, as they are causing discomfort and anxiety among the citizens of Albanian nationality."

Last Friday, Preševo saw the unveiling of the memorial which contains the names of 27 members of the UCPMB who had been killed during the insurgency. The memorial to cost RSD 3 million to build. Ethnic Albanians said that the ceremony was staged on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Albanian state.