Karel Holomek: The Czech Gov't Agency for Social Inclusion has gone nuts, the Roma need a legitimate political partner
Last week several dozen Romani figures assembled and issued a declaration expressing their ambition to become representatives of the Romani community in the Czech Republic. News server Romea.cz has learned that the author of that declaration is the famous Romani activist, journalist and politician Karel Holomek.
"A new phase is beginning. The failure of the Agency has made absolutely crystal clear that a new phase in our efforts at integration has begun. That failure has been confirmed by the Prime Minister, without the need for comment, by the fact that while he listened to what those on strike at the Agency had to say, no other outcome was ever possible. The PM has confirmed that he honors what he now has on the table, i.e., the Government's program for integrating Romani people into society, and also that the Agency is absolutely beside the point," Holomek told news server Romea.cz.
The Romani activist also asked us to note that the following are only his first remarks on this topic in response to our questions. He will be providing a more extensive commentary in the next few days.
Q: What has led you to participate in this activity?
A: I have joined this statement because I belong there, I am part of the group of older Romani people for whom the preservation of Romani identity is an essential matter with respect to the advancement of the program for integrating Romani people into society. The younger generation of Romani people doesn't grasp this and is rather cool towards it. The current crisis at the Agency demonstrates this problem in all its nakedness. The People in Need NGO, which is the same as the Agency, has always refused a straight answer to the question before us: "Is the wretched social situation of Romani people and the disproportionate percentage of them in that wretched situation the result of the public's perception of Romani ethnicity as a handicap? Is there a need to acknowledge this phenomenon, rhetorically at a minimum, or do you object to that?" Their response in practice has always been and continues to be a negative one. They have played a hypocritical game all along, claiming that if we are to be equal and fair, then their social work must belong to everyone, but this is just a game of peekaboo. It's one thing to fulfill a strategy in the real world and something else entirely to present it to the public. The work of persuading the public must be done! The Agency employees don't have what it takes. There are no guarantees there. They have done absolutely nothing in the field, which is their aim, and now they have simply gone nuts.
Q: Do you believe it is actually realistic for such an assembly to become representative of Romani people in the Czech Republic, to become a partner of the Government? Isn't the Romani community too fragmented for that? Where does this assembly get its legitimacy?
A: I do not believe the current Romani community is fragmented - at least, the community that follows politics is not. Neither the Goverment's Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, nor the Agency, most certainly, is an independent partner for negotiating with anyone. The Inter-ministerial Commission is just an advisory body. A civil society element like this assembly of Roma, this Council of Elders, something in that sense, would actually be a legitimate partner. Everyone, including Dienstbier, acknowledges this. It just has to succeed. We know who our Pappenheims are, right?
Q: Isn't it a problem for you that the participants in that assembly include people with problematic pasts? By that I mean, for example, Mr Leško - he may head the Romani Council in Ostrava, but he is objectionable to many people from the majority and to Romani people as a "trafficker in poverty". Won't these people weaken the assembly's credibility?
A: A credible partner? You mention Leško from Ostrava - yes, he was at the assembly. Naturally, this is a question, but who has proven that he is a trafficker in poverty? I don't know - I must admit that I have followed him only marginally, I haven't researched this - but what about the majority, what about their politicians? How many of them do we have, in the very top posts, who are untrustworthy? What about, for example, [Czech President] Zeman, who is a populist by profession?! I consider him to be a greater security risk to this country than anyone else, someone who is unworthy of furthering anything in the Romani program. Leško is a lamb compared to a wolf like Zeman. My conclusion is that if this effort doesn't get snuffed out from the start, it might result in some progress.
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