Civil society members of Czech Government's Roma advisory body outraged by Vice PM's remarks about Roma Holocaust site
The Romani civil society members of the Czech Government Council on Romani Minority Affairs are outraged by the Czech Vice Prime Minister's recent remarks about the former so-called "Gypsy camp" at Lety u Písku. Members of the council have called on Andrej Babiš, who is also Finance Minister, to keep his publicly-declared promise and arrange financing for the purchase of the pig farm now located on the site.
"The former prisoners of the camp and the surviving relatives of the victims certainly expect Minister Babiš to fulfill the promise he made in his public apology and to arrange the necessary financing," reads their press release. News server Romea.cz publishes it in full translation here.
Statement of the civil society members of the Czech Government Council on Romani Minority Affairs regarding the Government's plan to buy the industrial pig farm at Lety u Písku and the remarks by Minister Babiš
On Monday, 5 September 2016, the Czech Government revealed its plan, approved in March of this year, to buy the industrial pig farm on the territory of the former concentration camp at Lety u Písku. We welcome this news and we are aware that it is the result of long-term efforts by the Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation, Jiří Dienstbier, and by Culture Minister Daniel Herman to advocate for a solution acceptable to all interested parties.
We consider it important to mention that the impulse to resolve this unsatisfactory situation was embarked upon by civil society, and that it is the efforts of civil society that are having an effect today on this issue. It is necessary to realize that it would be appropriate to implement the Government's declared intention of buying the land as soon as possible, in accordance with its Strategy for Roma Integration to 2020.
We recommend building a dignified memorial to the victims of the former concentration camp in place of the pig farm and entrusting its administration to a competent institution. The current administration adopted its Strategy in February 2015, but it seems that not all cabinet members are well-acquainted with its measures.
The remarks by Finance Minister Andrej Babiš made in front of jounralists on 1 September during his visit with local residents in Varnsdorf have outraged us. The Government's plan to buy the pig farm, now public, will solve the problem of the undignified remembrance currently given to the victims of the camp at Lety.
The former prisoners of the camp and the surviving relatives of the victims certainly expect Minister Babiš to fulfill the promise he made in his public apology and to arrange the necessary financing. The conscious support expressed by many Czech politicians for stereotypical ideas held by the public about Romani people and for negative attitudes toward Romani people is something we consider very dangerous.
Minister Babiš is far from the only Czech politician to have recently given the public the signal that it is fine to openly express racist, xenophobic views. In many European countries he would be charged and tried for such a statement!
We believe the current administration will act as a unified whole and will manage to contribute to fulfilling its Roma Strategy in a dignified, high-quality way. We, the civil society members of the Czech Government Council on Romani Minority Affairs, will closely follow the Government's next steps and we are prepared to aid the Government with them.
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