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PRESS digest: SME DAILY

News item: National Memory Institute admits it has no idea of the whereabouts of several classified files on former ŠtB communist secret service agents, and says the former head of the Institute, Ján Langoš, was accustomed to remove files for his personal inspection without signing them out.


The memory of the nation without the institute
By Marián Leško


An unbiased observer might until recently have had the impression that the National Memory Institute [which is in charge of exploring Slovakia's communist and fascist past and administering files regarding that past - ed. note] guarded nothing as closely as the original copies of its files, and protected nothing so tightly as access to them. Today it is clear that this impression was mistaken.

In the well-known conflict over the signature on the file of Agent Lotos, the Institute and its director refused to hand the file over to the police, and would not even allow experts to examine the signature to determine whether it was genuine. The Institute's position that the law did not allow it to "make compromises" could have evoked respect, until it became clear that within the Institute itself, documents were handled in a far more cavalier fashion.

The leadership of the Institute admitted a few days ago that former director Langoš was in the habit of "removing documents usually without signing for them", and that there is no written evidence of anyone having removed the five files that have mysteriously gone missing. The deputy director of the Institute has no idea "whether these documents left the Institute while Ján Langoš was alive, or after his death". Given that we are talking about originals here, not working copies, it is plain that the manner in which the Institute handled personal files and agency material was almost Bohemian in its laxity. Given that the Institute's central role is to administer these documents in a professional and trustworthy manner, this is a grave failing.

It is also a failing that hands a gift to the enemies of the Institute. The chairman of the HZDS immediately saw his chance and renewed his August attack ("we don't need the National Memory Institute") with fresh salvoes. He has used the scandalous loss of the documents to cast doubt not only on the Institute's work to date, but also on its very purpose. Vladimír Mečiar is doing everything in his power to ensure that eliminating the Institute, whether directly or by changing its statutes, becomes a hot item on the coalition's agenda. His coalition partners are unlikely to put up much resistance, because SNS leader Ján Slota has already said that "we are not particularly interested in the Institute", while PM Robert Fico has called it "a bagatelle".

If this Institute, whose role is to document everything that was done by the state's security organs during half a century of oppression, is abolished after only a few years in existence, the memory of the nation will remain as it is. Amnesic.

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