Miloš Zeman circa 1998: CZK 600 million to build a memorial instead of a pig farm is "negligible amount"
Czech President Miloš Zeman claimed during yesterday's "TÝDEN" ("The Week") program on the Barrandov cable television channel that he has always been against closing the pig farm currently located on the site of a former concentration camp for Romani people. Zeman insisted during the interview that he has always been of that opinion.
Specifically, he mentioned the period of 1998-2003, when he was Czech Prime Minister, and said he recalled mentioning the high cost of removing the farm as his main reason for opposing the move. He has apparently forgotten what he actually told the media in those days, as well as what his then-colleagues in the party said prior to his becoming PM.
When he was running for election, Zeman said that the amount of CZK 600 million [EUR 23 million] would be a "negligible" price to pay for moving the farm. "I would like to see a Social Democrat alive who would agree with a pig farm covering over a location of Czech Fascist crimes," the weekly RESPECT quoted the future Czech Culture Minister, Pavel Dostál, as saying, while Zeman himself told the weekly that to him, "even the allegedly-sought amount of CZK 600 million would be a negligible amount to pay to build a memorial to the victims of Czech -- I emphasize, Czech -- terror against our fellow citizens who are Romani."
Yesterday, on the Barrandov program, the Czech President recalled saying something absolutely different. He explained why, as PM, he had opposed closing the farm at Lety u Písku.
"I dealt with this matter as Prime Minister and refused to close that pig farm, for the very simple reason that its closure would have cost the Government, and therefore the taxpayers, about CZK 400 million," he said. It is true that, after the 1998 elections, when Zeman became PM, he did reverse himself and forgot his campaign promises.
Then-Czech MP Monika Horáková (today Mihaličková) of the Freedom Union party (Unie Svobody) pointed that fact out in the Czech daily Mladá fronta DNES in April 1999, in an article called "The Genocide of the Roma and Zeman's Campaign Promises" where she discusses the Social Democratic cabinet's failure to approve a resolution to proceed further in connection with commemorating the Nazi genocide of the Roma. The document then rejected by the cabinet would have asked the Chamber of Deputies to release the necessary amount from the budgets for 2000 and 2001 to build a new pig farm and remove the existing one.
The article also refers to the then-PM"s campaign promises as "populist". At the close of the part of yesterday's interview that covered the issue of the pig farm, Zeman said that while he rarely changes his opinions, he "knew" he has not done so on this one ...
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- Czech archaeologists discover two graves of Romani concentration camp victims at Lety u Písku
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- Czech design competition for memorial to Holocaust victims of Roma/Sinti origin opens in September, winner to be announced in the spring