Sociologists critical of Vsetin Romanies resettlement
Almost 2000 supporters of Czech Deputy PM Jiri Cunek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL, chairman) today met outside the Vsetin Town Hall in protest against the investigation into the alleged corruption of which Cunek, former Vsetin mayor, is accused.
The protest meeting was held by the Committee for Defence of Jiri Cunek, associating people who believe in his innocence. Among the protesters were senator Jaromir Stetina (for Greens) and Cunek's wife Pavla.
Cunek, who is also Local Development Minister and senator, has been accused of having taken a half-million-crowns bribe in 2002 when he was mayor of Vsetin. He pleads innocent and he has refused to step down from the government posts.
The town hall of Vsetin did not act correctly when it moved local Romanies to two container-like houses on the town outskirts last autumn, according to an analysis Brno's Masaryk University has worked out at the request of the Czech government.
Representatives of the town hall and NGOs believe the opposite, however. During the discussion about the report today, they said the Vsetin solution was determined by the given situation in the town and was applied in good faith.
The Government council for Romany Community Affairs had the study worked out in January. The study maps the Vsetin hall's procedure in the long run.
Its authors for two months enquired into what preceded the town hall's decision to build the container-like houses. They tried to address all people involved and examined various documents.
In their report they criticise the town hall for not having secured a larger involvement of people in the debate on Romany affairs.
"Big" decisions were only made by the town's top leadership. Plans were designed only with regard to technical parameters, not taking social ones into account, said one of the authors, Tereza Steklova.
Most participants in the discussion, however, said they find the report unobjective and having a political subtext.
The report does not register the opinions of the people living near the dilapidated house in the town centre where the resettled Romanies, most of them rent-defaulters, lived originally, the critics said.
Neither does the report feature the statistics of the rescue service that often had to interfere in the old house, they pointed out.
Czeslaw Walek from the Government Office said that the report would serve as a ground document for the planned agency that would deal with the Romany issue.
Walek criticised as unfortunate the fact that before resettling the Romanies, the Vsetin hall showed the new container-like houses to the mayors of other towns which could follow the Vsetin model inappropriately.
Vsetin has sought Romany integration for several years now. Its former mayor Jiri Cunek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL), however, was widely criticised for moving the Romany rent-defaulters to the container-like flats and some even to other Moravian regions.
Cunek, who has become deputy PM and local development minister in the meantime, says that the situation of Romanies would not improve if the state benefit system remained excessively generous to them.
Romanies get up to tens of thousands of crowns a month in benefits without doing any work in exchange, Cunek says.
Some of his controversial statements, however, have irritated many people. More than a hundred Romany activists and NGO members called on Cunek to resign at a demonstration outside the Government Office last week.
On the other hand, Cunek has supporters. Two thousands of them backed him at a demonstration outside the Vsetin town hall today.
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