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EDITORIAL

To protect and serve?

POLICE actions this past week have highlighted two enduring and dangerous trends in Slovak society and politics.
The arrests of lawyer Ernest Valko and entrepreneur Ladislav Rehák, for example, reek of political revenge. Both men were powerful friends of the previous Dzurinda government, and above all were seen as having profited from their friendship.

POLICE actions this past week have highlighted two enduring and dangerous trends in Slovak society and politics.

The arrests of lawyer Ernest Valko and entrepreneur Ladislav Rehák, for example, reek of political revenge. Both men were powerful friends of the previous Dzurinda government, and above all were seen as having profited from their friendship. They were, and are, exactly the kind of political targets Prime Minister Robert Fico has been aiming at since founding his leftist-populist Smer party in 1999.

The Slovak Spectator has learned details of these arrests that raise disturbing questions about the objectivity of the police as well as the truthfulness of their top representatives, but has been asked not to publish them yet by the Rehák family. On November 20, the courts are to decide whether Valko, Ladislav Rehák and his son Martin are to be remanded in custody, and any media reports suggesting their innocence can be regarded as an attempt to influence the decisions.

However, in the context of the Fico government's other accusations of corruption by the Dzurinda government, these latest arrests only inflame the public mood, which is already vengeful against "class enemies" such as wealthy lawyers and businessmen who are believed to have profited while the rest of the country suffered under reforms.

One is reminded of 1998, the last time this country experienced such a sweeping transfer of power. Back then, news of every arrest, whether it was of former secret service director Ivan Lexa or mega-privatizer Vladimír Poór, was greeted by gestures of triumph from the supporters of the Dzurinda government. These were the bad guys, and they were finally getting their comeuppance.

Now, in small towns and villages, in the thousands of humid pubs that populate the countryside, the electorate of the current government is exulting in a similar manner at the capture of arch-capitalists such as Valko and Rehák.

Let it be said that if these men are eventually found guilty by the courts, no one should protest their fate, whatever their political sympathies. But if, as this newspaper believes likely, they turn out to have been victims of a change in the political weather, every citizen of this country should protest - whatever their political sympathies.

Former Police Vice-President Jaroslav Spišiak, who was fired by the incoming government, once told this newspaper he believed there was a link between murders in the underworld and changes in the leadership of the secret service. (By extension, because the SIS is under the prime minister, he might have linked the murders to changes in government). His point was that each leadership of the SIS has been linked with a certain mafia group, and when it is ousted, its underworld henchmen tend to go down with it, under the guns of the ascendant group.

Is the murder on November 14 of "entrepreneur" Ján Kubašiak part of a new wave of underworld killings associated with the arrival of the Fico government and the departure of its predecessor? Given that the gang Kubašiak belonged to, the "oil fraud gang", has been linked by police to the opposition SDKÚ party, it is possible. But it is more ominous still that the killers are alleged to have been current and former policemen.

After the turmoil of the 1994-1998 years, Slovak society became less polarized under Dzurinda, which was one of the former PM's greatest but least acknowledged gifts to the country. The mentality that Robert Fico is now encouraging - us vs. them, rich vs. poor - may increase his popularity, but can only take Slovakia back to a more primitive and less democratic phase of development.

However these latest police "cases" turn out, one thing is sure - the nation may recover, but the individuals involved will suffer possibly irreparable damage. If they are looking for sympathy or kindred spirits, Ernest Valko and Ladislav Rehák might well turn to Ivan Lexa and Vladimír Poór. How ironic that they finally have something in common.

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