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Karel Holomek resigns from Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs

Prague, 21.5.2011 2:40, (ROMEA)

Karel Holomek, a former MP in the post-1989 Czech National Council and chair of the Society of Roma in Moravia (Společenství Romů na Moravě - SRNM) has resigned his membership in the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs. Holomek follows Anna Šabatová, who recently resigned from the Czech Government Human Rights Council, as the latest figure to resign in protest over the current Government ignoring domestic human rights. Holomek announced his resignation this week in an open letter, which news server Romea.cz publishes below in full.

To the Prime Minister of the Government of the Czech Republic in his capacity as chair of the Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, Petr Nečas

Brno, 10 May 2011

Esteemed Prime Minister,

It is with regret that I must announced to you that I am resigning from office as a member of the Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs. The expectations I had for this position have not been met. Those expectations were as follows:

I expected the Commission to become a real advisory body to you on the human rights matters closely related to the issue of the coexistence of the Roma minority and the majority in this society. I know of no better-prepared body for this purpose than the Commission, which is comprised of the highest officials from the government and the ministries, augmented by an equal number of Roma members. Under the current circumstances I consider it to be the best-placed institution meeting all the prerequisites for being able to effectively and functionally advise the Government and, through that critique, to prevent the taking of decisions which would not generally contribute to improving the position of the minority in this society that is worst off, the Roma minority.

After getting to know the Commission during the last half-year of its operations, I have come to these conclusions. You certainly remember the first session of the Commission last November, when I personally formulated a question directly addressed to you and you responded that the Commission was your advisory body on Roma affairs. Today I can report that this is not the case.

I have come to the understanding that completely different people are providing you with advice on these matters. I was able to follow this from up close, as I was an adviser to Michael Kocáb when he was Human Rights Commissioner and formerly Human Rights Minister. I do not intend to comment on the quality of your advisers. I am only mentioning the most basic things here that have substantiated my disappointment and that clearly define the legitimacy of my arguments.

The outcome of the Roma Holocaust Training and Information Center project at Hodonín by Kunštát was a great disappointment to me. This project was not entrusted to the Museum of Roma Culture, which is prepared both morally and professionally for it and has been working in this field for all of 20 years, but completely against any logic was entrusted to the Jan A. Comenius Pedagogical Museum in Prague, which is ignorant in this matter and unprepared. The project was conceived from the beginning as a government project so it could end up, for irrelevant reasons, on the agenda of the Education Ministry. I elaborated the details to you in a letter on 10 February 2010. I never received your reply.

The first letter I sent to you before the Commission was put together concerned the restrictions on the work of the Human Rights Section caused by the long-term absence of an appointment to the Human Rights Commissioner position and the effort to hold down and limit that section to the greatest possible degree. The argument I made in that letter was that if human rights are effectively well-respected, this can prevent worse social outcomes for minorities in particular, the Roma minority included. The tendency prevailed to declare that the best protection is the Constitution and the laws and that nothing else is needed. It is no secret who advocated for that advice in government circles. True, thanks to cooler heads prevailing, a compromise was achieved and things are now in the state they are in. I never received a response from you to that letter either, even though you promised the media you would send me an answer.

A further disappointment - form a long line of others that I will not discuss - is the Government's performance on the inclusive education of Roma pupils in Czech education, which Education Minister Dobeš promised to implement at the first session of the Commission last November. Part of that was supposed to be the Czech state's response to the lawsuit it lost at the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, a complaint filed by 18 Roma pupils. The response was supposed to be amendments to Decrees 72 and 73 from 2005. It is clear today that the Education Ministry is interested in a different stance on the inclusive education program than that originally established by the previous government, a stance which happened to have resulted from broad public discussion. It is certainly the legitimate right of the ministry to subject the plan to broader expert discussion, of course, but the staffing policy of the minister more than confirmed my concerns. There is no need to repeat here what is already an open secret. Minister Dobeš did not attend the last session of the Commission. The explanation of his absence given by his substitute was simply insufficient and, I would even say, misleading.

All of these steps were discussed at the Commission and more or less rejected. Our recommendations were the opposite of what the Government eventually adopted.

Esteemed Prime Minister, you are vested with the right to take the decisions you recognize as being correct. I, however, may also express my criticism or if necessary, my protest against them.

Since I have exhausted all of the options available to me to prevent such decisions, I have the right to express my protest by resigning. That is what I am doing now.

One more explanation: I am the only Roma member of the Commission who is not officially employed by the Government or any other administrative body. My loyalty is constrained only by the correctness of my approach, and that is a line I have not crossed.

Esteemed Prime Minister, since you have not answered any of my letters, I am not expecting an answer to this one either. Permit me, therefore, to entrust it to the media as an open letter. I believe it will also be a good response to the recent findings of the polls on the opinions of the Czech public and their bias against Roma people.

I continue to perform my work in the NGO sector full-time. I have learned that the time is not yet ripe for me to be able to devote myself effectively to the position of Commission member.

wish you much luck with your difficult job.

With respect,

Karel Holomek

Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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