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Anti-Roma campaign in Ústi region being led by ODS

Usti nad Labem, 28.9.2008 19:27, (ROMEA)

The anti-Roma campaign introduced by a large banner reading „Makejte gádžové, ať se máme líp" ("Gadjos, get to work so we can be better off") is being led by the regional ODS party in Ústí. In an interview for the daily Ústecký Deník, Regional Governor Jiří Šulc, up for re-election as head of the ODS candidate list, confirmed this. The banner first turned up on the "Palác Zdar" building, which is under reconstruction in Ústí nad Labem, and then was hung on a building in Litvínov.

In Ústí nad Labem the banner was hung without the permission of the company AZ Sanace, which owns the building. The internet server Deník.cz quoted Jakub Zavoral, an AZ Sanace board member, as saying:  "I confess that the banner surprised me as well. Since it is our building, I very much apologize to everyone who was offended by the slogan." 

Czech Government Human Rights Minister Džamila Stehlíková (Greens) condemned the first hanging of the banner in  Ústí nad Labem as a provocation and demanded a thorough investigation. "The level of seriousness and the threat to society must be evaluated. A first reading indicates that this would-be joke is racially motivated," Deník.cz quotes Stehlíková as protesting.

The Ústecký Deník asked ODS Regional Governor Jiří Šulc why ODS is conducting this anti-Roma, racist campaign.

Why did you choose this form of campaign? Who financed it and how much did the banner cost?

I wanted to express my disagreement with the abuse of social welfare in the Ústi region by a group of people who have not wanted to work for a long time and who abuse our too-generous social system. Of the CZK 9 billion in subsidies annually dispersed in our region we estimate that between one and three billion are paid out unjustifiably. I paid to make those banners from my own pocket.

Doesn't the text promote racism? The police are investigating.

I was personally fired up by that slogan when I saw it in Deník this summer - and by the way, back then no one said they saw anything racist or populist about it - so I "borrowed" it, as they say. But the heart of the matter is not whether there is something racist about it or not. 
 

That sounds like an excuse.

The heart of the matter is that someone who does not work is shamelessly calling on someone else who does work, and off of whose taxes he lives, to work for him even more. In my opinion, this slogan is appropriate and apposite and will provoke a society-wide discussion of whether the system of paying social welfare is functioning in our country, of how it is abused by many people. Ask people what they think. I have been discussing this problem with them for years, not just prior to the elections, and I know their opinion very well.

Human Rights and Minorities Minister Džamila Stehlíková claims it is racist.

I agree with her, but the racially motivated opinion was expressed by whoever wrote the slogan, and that was not me. In Litvínov - Janov many people saw it before I did, it was in the newspapers. Some anonymous author, not me, designated a certain group of inhabitants here using the expression "gadjo". Should we overlook that?

Did the owner of the building know you were going to hang a banner with such a text there? AZ Sanace claimed to Deník that they did not know it would be there and apologized.

The option to hang banners was discussed with representatives of the firm AZ Sanace a.s. I admit I did not familiarize them with the content of the banner in detail. I underestimated it.

Doesn't the form of this campaign seem populist to you?

I reject that. According to the dictionary, populism is an effort to curry favor regardless of the matter at hand. In this case there is a real issue. By the way, the occupants of the building in Luční street in Janov have done their best to curry favor with the unadaptable citizens when addressing problems - in vain - but they have my favor now. If someone from Prague wants to claim that is populism, they should come here and look at the reality of the situation and say that face-to-face to the people who have to live next door to these unadaptable citizens.

Politicians play the "Roma card" every time elections are around the corner.

I am not talking about the Roma, I am talking about the unadaptables. I see no reason why we should not speak publicly in this society about the fact that as many as tens of billions of crowns disappear from the state budget all over the country through the payout of unjustifiable social welfare. There is nothing populist about the fact that I have labeled this problem with a slogan I happened to see in the newspaper. I have named a society-wide problem, and if you hang on until 1. 10. 2008, I will also introduce its possible solution.

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