CITIZEN Juraj Ondrejčák has certainly made an impression since being named to the Education and Culture Commission in the Bratislava suburb of Lamač.
During the commission's first sitting, according to the records from January 30, Ondrejčák "proposed that we stage a big Easter football competition at the Na Barine sports hall, and also look at the possibility of cancelling the rental contract with the current tenant". A worthy start to an illustrious public service career, perhaps.
The other contribution this active citizen has made, however, is not as positive, as he has increased the public visibility of organized crime in Bratislava.
A certain Juraj Ondrejčák, also known as Piťo, has been an "object of interest" for the police and the secret service for several years, as the public discovered in 2004 when the "mafia lists" were leaked from the police. According to the police, Piťo is the leader of the most militant organized crime group in the capital, based in Lamač.
How did such a man come to hold a public post?
Ondrejčák was proposed to the commission by its chairwoman and Lamač councillor Mária Imrichová, who ran for the opposition Christian Democrats (KDH). He has a more than passing acquaintance with Martin Rehák, son of Ladislav Rehák, the largest official individual sponsor of the KDH (Sk2.1 million) from 2002-2005, according to the database of the Fair Play Alliance.
When such things happen - as they will in a country which has sold off most of its assets in the last 15 years - one expects the political establishment to close ranks and condemn it.
In the case of Ondrejčák, however, we've heard only attempts to downplay the situation.
"With all due respect, the education commission at some school, in some part of the city or some self-governing unit, when you look at the Constitution and the law, is far from the executive branch," said Interior Minister Róbert Kaliňák as quoted by Rádio Viva.
Lamač councillor Radoslav Olekšák (SDKÚ, SMER, SNS) said he saw no reason to get rid of Ondrejčák, as he has never been convicted of a crime. "Let the courts decide," he said for Sme.
Nor did the Lamač council discuss Ondrejčák at its February 22 sitting. "No one brought it up," said councillor Daniel Valentovič, who admitted that he himself "didn't have the guts".
Some voices were raised in protest, particularly within the KDH. However, the people who supported Ondrejčák's nomination, and have the power to remove him, remain silent.
Ten years ago, the mafia were a loud fact of life in Slovakia. A record 141 bombs exploded or were planted that year, compared to 8 in 1993. There were indications that organized crime had penetrated the ranks of the police, the SIS, and the government itself.
It has taken a decade of hard work, individual courage, and a willingness to break the silence to remove that stain from the public domain. But we are not out of the woods yet, and any relaxation of state repression or public condemnation will lead to a comeback by our unlamented thick-necked compatriots.
Everyone knows what's at stake here, especially people who live (and govern) in Lamač. Pace Robert Kaliňák, it's not true that Juraj Ondrejčák's position carries no power. Perception is power, and the perception here is that politicians in Lamač, at least, owe more to Ondrejčák than they do to common sense and the public interest.
By Tom Nicholson
5. Mar 2007 at 0:00