During a speech by the leader of the Communist Party, Miroslav
Grebenicek, several MPs walked out of the Chamber, as did former
president Havel. President Klaus remained seated during Mr Grebenicek's
Before the Chamber of Deputies meeting police broke up a heated demonstration outside the headquarters of the Communist Party organized by the Young Conservatives.
A number of events have been held in Prague to mark the anniversary of the
beginning of the Velvet Revolution, which led to the collapse of the
communist regime in 1989. President Vaclav Klaus, former president Vaclav
Havel and Prime Minister Stanislav Gross laid flowers at the spot where
riot police attacked a peaceful student demonstration on Narodni trida
exactly 15 years ago.
Mr Havel, the former dissident who led the Velvet Revolution and was elected president shortly after the fall of communism, was greeted by cheers of "long live Havel, long live Havel".
Other politicians and many ordinary Czechs laid wreathes and lit candles at the memorial on Narodni Street throughout the day.
President Vaclav Klaus, addressing a ceremonial meeting of the Chamber of Deputies, said the Czech Republic's communist past should not be oversimplified. He said communism was part of Czech history and was therefore part of the national identity. Mr Klaus said the best way to come to terms with the country's communist past was to be positive today, and in so doing build a society which would not allow the emergence of similar regimes.
The Czech government has delayed a decision on selling its majority stake in the telecommunications operator Cesky Telecom, amidst a ministerial split on how best to proceed. Several ministers, including Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, favour a flotation on the capital markets but others claim that selling to a strategic investor would be a better long term option. A floatation of the state's 51 percent stake would bring immediate funds to the cash-strapped government. Several previous attempts to sell the government's stake in Telecom failed.
The Cabinet has approved pension bonuses for former political prisoners and labour camp inmates under the communist regime. Meeting on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the protests that led to the fall of communism, the Cabinet approved a directive according to which former prisoners of conscience should in future receive regular bonuses to their pensions, 50 crowns for every month that they had spent in a communist prison or labour camp. According to the Confederation of Political Prisoners the new directive will affect some 6,000 former political prisoners. Those eligible will have to apply for the bonus.
A transsexual is planning to sue the Czech military for discrimination, after the army refused to employ her as a driver. Thirty eight year old Jaroslava Brokesova was turned away despite the fact that she passed all the necessary tests. The military's health committee rejected her application on the grounds that she had undergone a sex change operation. Brokesova says she plans to file two law suits, the first in an attempt to overturn the committee's decision, the second to claim damages for having been forced to make her case public.
The police has charged five people with trafficking in babies. According to police spokeswoman Iva Knolova further arrests may follow. Several days ago the police prevented a planned transaction at Trebic airport, arresting a doctor and young woman as they were preparing to hand over a newborn to a childless couple. The woman had a large amount of cash in her possession. According to the police spokeswoman the ringleader is a woman and the gang includes a head of department of a maternity ward. Those involved could face up to ten years in prison.
The health minister, Milada Emmerova, has presented the government with her draft five-year plan to reform the nation's heath-care system. Her proposals include increasing state oversight of health insurers and reducing spending on drugs. Ms Emmerova also proposed that every state hospital appoint an ombudsman to address patients' concerns.
The deputy chairman of the main opposition Civic Democrats, Petr Necas, told Czech Radio's radiozurnal programme on Monday that his party is ready to form a "broad consensus of political forces" to push for holding early parliamentary elections, now scheduled for 2006. The centre-right Civic Democrats won 18 of 27 seats being contested for the Czech Senate this month while the ruling Social Democrats failed to pick up a single seat. Commenting on these results, Mr Necas said the "democratic legitimacy" of the Social Democrat-led government was "gradually disappearing". This year, the centre-right Civic Democrats defeated the left-leaning Social Democrats in regional Czech elections and in the country's first elections to the European Parliament.
A Prague district court on Monday sentenced 14 alleged members of a criminal gang for trafficking in human beings. The leader of the gang, a Chechen named Ivas Muzavev, was given a four-year prison term and fined 400,000 crowns. Other members of the gang, which included several Armenians and eastern European nationals and employed Czechs drivers, received suspended sentences or at most three-year prison terms as well as fines. Police said the gang had illegally transported at least 1,500 people across Czech territory from August 2002 until the ring was broken up in October last year. The gang initially focused on transporting people from India and its neighbouring countries but had begun to specialise in the former Soviet republics.