Ostrava - Svatomír Recman, Karel Konečný, Eva Valjentová, Zdeněk Dobrý and Jaroslav Borka are Communist Party (KSČM) members who have become new regional councillors thanks to local coalitions with the Social Democrats (ČSSD).
It is the first time since 1989 that the Communists are getting any executive posts. In them, they will decide on local social issues, assign dozens of millions of crowns in public funding for healthcare and culture, and influence large public tenders for road construction and the like.
And all of them have made it clear that they have no intention to distance themselves from the crimes that their party committed in the past.
Did commies torture and oppress?
Aktuálně.cz asked these five regional government officials for Vysočina, Moravia-Silesia and Karlovy Vary about their opinions of their own party's past and about the current communist regimes in some countries.
Was Joseph V. Stalin a dictator and mass murderer? Do the current communist regimes in China, Cuba and North Korea murder, maltreat and oppress innocent people? Did the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia represent military aggression? Et cetera.
Over the phone, all five councillors confirmed receipt of the total of eight questions e-mailed to them by the online daily, but none of them responded in the next eight days. Three of the five wrote back to say that they refuse to answer.
Forget about past
"I agreed that you can send me your questionnaire," said Zdeněk Dobrý, a Vysočina assembly member who is to assume the paid chairmanship of the finance committee under an agreement with the ČSSD. "But after looking at your questions, I will not respond. Unlike you, I want to focus on citizens' problems in the present and the future and not on my opinion on times long past."
However, the questions were not only about the Communist Party's past. In one of them read as follows: "Is the policy of today's KSČM based on The Communist Manifesto?" Aktuálně.cz thus hoped to find out if the new councillors would follow the 1848 book by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, encouraging communists to tackle social inequality through an armed revolution.
Some of the questions asked
- Was Joseph V. Stalin a dictator and mass murderer?
- Was Klement Gottwald [first Czechoslovakia's Communist president] Stalin's ally, helping him to stregthen his political power in postwar Europe?
- Do the current communist regimes in China, Cuba and North Korea murder, maltreat and oppress innocent people?
- Did the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia represent military aggression?
Also unanswered remained the question, "Are you proud of being a Communist?"
"I think this is about the nineteenth time that someone's asking me about this," said Svatomír Recman, new deputy governor for social affairs and culture in the Moravia-Silesia region, over the phone. "I don't understand what makes it so interesting. For me the future is more important than the past."
Karel Konečný, Moravia-Silesia's new deputy governor for healthcare, and Eva Valjentová, councillor responsible for culture in the Karlovy Vary region, wrote back they would not answer the questions. Both Recman and Konečný hold degrees in social sciences earned in Moscow during the Soviet era.
Jaroslav Borka, deputy governor for Karlovy Vary, was the only KSČM official who did not completely refuse to answer the questions. He said he was currently too busy, but might answer the questions "later".
Nothing is impossible
The regional government executives refused to answer the questions only a week after the Chamber of Deputies rejected a KSČM proposal that would legalise denial of past communist crimes.
Jaroslav Palas (ČSSD), new governor of Moravia-Silesia, was one of the Social Democrats who seemed most friendly to the Communists during regional coalition talks. "We have a responsibility to make sure the region is working well and that it is managed by reasonable people and experts," he said.
"Life goes on and in politics nothing is impossible," concluded Palas, who has a degree in Marxism-Leninism.