Just three months after taking office Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek is struggling to keep his centre-right coalition government afloat. A fragile majority in the lower house, a rebel in his own party who is threatening to vote against the government's proposed tax reforms and worst of all a deputy prime minister accused of corruption who has been rocking the boat for weeks. On top of all this, around two hundred angry Roma demonstrators gathered outside government headquarters on Wednesday to demand the dismissal of the said deputy prime minister
Roma activists and representatives of NGOs have held a demonstration
against Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. Over a hundred protesters
gathered outside the Office of the Government on Wednesday to call for his
departure from cabinet. The controversial politician came out and
to hold a discussion with some demonstrators, but was met with whistles.
Mr Cunek came in for criticism from across the political spectrum after seeming to disparage Romanies in a newspaper interview. He is also under investigation for alleged bribe-taking. However, the Christian Democrats leader has proclaimed his innocence in both instances and has resisted calls for him to step down.
But Jiri Cunek's affairs have had one "casualty": MP Pavel Severa is stepping down as deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats deputies' club, after his calls for the party leader's departure went unheeded.
In a related development, Roma rights activists are planning to stage a protest outside government headquarters on Wednesday, at a time when the cabinet is expected to be in session. Roma activists have announced their intention to file a joint lawsuit against Mr. Cunek for "inciting hatred against an ethnic group". In an recent interview for the Czech tabloid daily Blesk the deputy prime minister suggested that in order to be entitled to state subsidies like Romanies other people would need to get a suntan and start causing trouble in order to attract politician's attention.
It was clear from the moment he entered high politics that the former mayor of the town of Vsetin, Jiri Cunek, was a controversial politician. After he achieved nationwide notoriety for moving Roma rent defaulters from the centre of Vsetin, his political career accelerated. Riding on a wave of popularity, Jiri Cunek won a Senate seat and the chairmanship of his Christian Democratic Party; that eventually launched him to the posts of deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development in the coalition government of Prime Minister Mirek
Czech Roma rights activists have decided to file a lawsuit against
Deputy Prime Minister and Christian Democrat leader Jiri Cunek over his
comments regarding the Roma community. They say his statements might
amount to inciting hatred against the ethnic group. In a recent
interview for the popular tabloid Blesk, Mr Cunek said that in order to
be entitled to state subsidies like Romanies, other people would need
to get a suntan, behave in a disorderly way and light fires on town
squares before politicians would regard them as badly off.
Roma rights activists are calling for Mr Cunek's departure from government. They are planning to stage a protest outside the government headquarters in Prague on Wednesday.
The cabinet minister responsible for minorities and human rights, Dzamila Stehlikova, has said the government will present a policy outline regarding the Roma community in June. A special governmental agency is to start working in the middle of the year assisting municipalities with integration programmes for the Roma. As of September, towns and villages will be able to draw money from European Union funds for their integration programmes.
Roma activists from the Athinganoi civic association have held a ceremony on Prague's Letna Pplain as part of the celebrations surrounding International Roma Day. With the Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Dzamila Stehlikova in attendance, they watered a lime tree that had been planted there three years ago as a symbol of the deep roots of minorities like the Roma in Czech society. The event was one of many organised for International Roma Day, which takes place on Sunday and is intended as a celebration of Romany history and culture.
Two Roma organisations announced on Friday that they intend to demonstrate before the offices of government next Wednesday to demand the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. The protest is being jointly arranged by the Romany Association of Northern Moravia and the Romea civic association. They have also launched a petition calling for Mr Cunek's resignation, which has already been signed by a hundred representatives of Roma organisations and international institutions. Mr Cunek made a controversial comment about the Roma in last Friday's edition of the tabloid Blesk. When asked by a reader whether other people should receive state subsidies like Romanies, Mr Cunek said they would first need to get a suntan, behave in a disorderly way and light fires on town squares before politicians would regard them as badly off.
An opinion poll commissioned by Czech TV suggests that most Czechs agree with Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek's recently expressed views on Romanies. Asked by a newspaper whether other people should receive state subsidies like Romanies, Mr Cunek said non-Roma would need to get a suntan - an allusion to the colour of Romanies' skin - cause chaos in their families and light fires on town squares before politicians would regard them as badly off. In the poll conducted by the STEM agency, 64 percent of respondents agreed with Mr Cunek and 58 percent said he should not have to leave his post in government.
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