As the film footage of the unthinkable police raid on Vladimír Mečiar's 'Elektra' pension in Trenčianske Teplice first bombarded domestic and international airwaves, the majority of the public and national media came out against the violent means used by the police in nabbing the holed-up three-time ex-Prime Minister. The TV Markíza crew - waiting inside the villa at the top of the entry hallway while taping the 'black masks' wire explosives to the glass front door and blow it to pieces - brought the images to the front room of practically every Slovak. And a majority who saw the ridiculous scene were correctly appalled by the police's silly tactics.
But lost somewhere in the denunciation of the approach was real issue: while the police procedure was unquestionably strong-armed and lacking tact, the real criminal in this soap opera affair was none other than Mečiar himself.
As the leader of the most popular political party in the country (Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, HZDS) and the so-called 'Father of Slovakia', Mečiar's refusal to obey a police summons was disgraceful. Instead of obliging his civic duty as a citizen of the country, Mečiar refused to testify for over a month - first in March when he ignored Slovak Police Chief of Investigators Jaroslav Ivor's public request to testify; then on March 26 when he quickly fled the Slovak Television studios surrounded by body-guards after taping a debate with Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda as a police investigator tried to serve him with the summons (Mečiar later would say that he had not heard the investigator calling after him); and finally when he opted to hide behind the gated front of his Trenčianske Teplice villa in a final, childish act of resistance throughout the better part of April.
Mečiar claims that he only wants the best for Slovakia and its citizens. In a November interview with The Slovak Spectator, he said that he "dreams of a prosperous Slovakia, where good wins over evil - [this] is a dream without an end for me. I really regret that many people never understood that I always served them, I never knew of anything different besides their interest."
But a closer examination of Mečiar's last government shows that these words ring hollow, that he was actually more interested in serving the interests of his HZDS cronies and crooked allies: illegal bonuses issued to ministers; lucrative companies sold to HZDS 'businessmen' at prices far below market value which were then sucked dry by tunnelled profits; even giving up his own seat in Parliament - and with it, his parliamentary immunity - to former Slovak Intelligence Service boss Ivan Lexa, the man widely believed to have carried out the 'campaign of discreditation' against former president Michal Kováč, a campaign so base and brutal in its nature that the president's son was abducted and smuggled across international borders.
Now the Elektra fiasco. Does Mečiar have the country's best interest at heart? Or was his refusal to turn himself in to police a desperate act of self-preservation, a means of trying to side-track an investigation which political analysts say is sure to reveal numerous gross criminal acts? Or was it simply a way to drum up support for his opposition HZDS, a means of creating a platform for a party struggling to find one? Only time will tell if it worked, but the aggressive nature of the investigating police show that they mean business while polls suggesting that 65% of the nation agreed that Mečiar should have been detained propound that he may have expected a different response.
Of course, this is not to say that the police action was appropriate. If Mečiar is to stand accused of creating a side-show, the police are equal in their guilt. Black mask commando units? By using the 'black masks', the police apparently expected that Mečiar had used his month in the villa to transmute into John Rambo, barricaded into his bedroom decked out in camouflage and toting an Uzi with ammunition belts draped across his upper torso while screaming at the approaching police units, "Nothing is over!" Certainly, the police used excessive force - Mečiar was no threat to literally 'go down shooting'.
But police imbecility aside, the main figure of the affair cannot be overlooked - Mečiar. To wit, he is a citizen of Slovakia. The police wanted to question him and he refused. He disobeyed the country's law and failed to fulfil his civic duty.
For such behaviour to come from the 'Father of Slovakia' is even more inexcusable. Mečiar would have been well-served had he followed the lead of his western colleagues Helmut Kohl and Bill Clinton. While both men are of questionable character, they at least stood up and took responsibility or submitted to questioning when accused of corruption, Clinton going so far as to say that he would never accept a pardon from the new president, that he would rather "stand before any bar of justice that I have to stand before" to answer charges concerning the Monica Lewinsky or Whitewater scandals.
Mečiar, meanwhile, says that he wants the best for Slovakia. But until he stops holding himself above the law, his words will remain as transparent and useless as the front door of his Elektra villa.
1. May 2000 at 0:00