Rally blasts coalition's policies

An estimated 20,000 people angered at Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's government policies, converged on Bratislava's central square on November 14 to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 Velvet Revolution that toppled Communism in former Czechoslovakia. Seven years after crowds had protested against Communist rule, the rally protested against the current ruling coalition for "throwing away the ideals the people at the square back then had fought for,'' said Rudolf Sikora, a painter and a professor at the University of Fine Arts.
Slovakia's artistic community, infuriated by the government's dictating how state-financed cultural institutions should be run, teamed up with church representatives, trade union officials, and all Parliamentary opposition parties except the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) to stage the rally, called "Let's Save Slovakia."


Teary memory. Hana Remiášová, whose son Robert Remiáš died in a car explosion in April, gave the rally's most moving speech.
Vladimír Hák

An estimated 20,000 people angered at Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's government policies, converged on Bratislava's central square on November 14 to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 Velvet Revolution that toppled Communism in former Czechoslovakia.

Seven years after crowds had protested against Communist rule, the rally protested against the current ruling coalition for "throwing away the ideals the people at the square back then had fought for,'' said Rudolf Sikora, a painter and a professor at the University of Fine Arts.

Slovakia's artistic community, infuriated by the government's dictating how state-financed cultural institutions should be run, teamed up with church representatives, trade union officials, and all Parliamentary opposition parties except the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) to stage the rally, called "Let's Save Slovakia."

"Seven years ago, the artists and politicians were united at this square against the Communist dictatorship," said Jan Čarnogurský, chairman of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH). "Today we meet here again to protest against attempts to establish a new dictatorship.''

"We Hungarians have been labelled as enemies of Slovakia," said Laszlo Nagy from the Hungarian Civic Party. "We shall not let this government 'Balkanize' our common country.''

The rally's most moving moment occurred when Hana Ramiášová took the stage. Her son, Róbert Remiáš, had been a confidant of a self-proclaimed Slovak Intelligence Service officer named Oskar Fegyveres who said he participated in the kidnapping of President Michal Kováč's son. Remiáš died when his car exploded on April 28. "Seven years ago, I was happy because I believed my children would have hope for a better life,'' Remiášová told the crowd. "Soon, it will be seven months since [my son] was murdered. He had to die, for otherwise certain heads could fall. Those heads were more important than my son.''

A lone individual from the crowd yelled, "Mečiar killed him!'' and the square turned dead silent. When Remiášová ended her speech, people cried, "Mečiar to jail!'' and "Down with Mečiar!"

Chief investigators put on both the Michal Kováč Jr. abduction and the Remiáš car explosion cases by the Interior Ministry said the probes have been closed for lack of evidence and suspects.

Fallout

The rally made the front page of all opposition dailies the next day. The government-supported daily Slovenská Republika carried commentaries, one of which said: "Suddenly, the opposition fears for Slovakia, but they should realize that hatred only brings more evil.''

The protest took place three days before the Velvet Revolution's actual anniversary because a student organization, allied with Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), had reserved the square for a concert.

Juraj Hagara, a HZDS spokesman, wrote a statement accusing the opposition of "attempting to steal November 17 and use it to gain political capital.''

Those who attended the Wednesday rally are, according to Hagara, "forces unable to accept their absolute failure in any democratic elections.''

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