As the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution approaches this Monday, 17 November, some politicians might start to get nervous as the Slovak people recall how they stood up against the former Communist regime and how it might inspire them to do it again.
This year’s main target is Parliamentary Chairman Pavol Paska, who for the past few weeks has been fending off attacks and calls for him to stand down over his alleged involvement with a company that just so happens to be doing particularly well in state tenders when his party is in power. Several protests have been organised for tomorrow and this weekend in Bratislava, Banska Bystrica and Paska’s hometown of Kosice, where several hundred protesters converged outside his home earlier this week. A stage, sponsored by opposition MPs, has been set up in Bratislava’s SNP square, the venue of many a disgruntled citizen in the past.
Paska has been accused by several opposition MPs of having cashed in on health service orders for years by way of the company Medical Group SK. The true owners of the company are hidden behind a string of parents that leads to the tax haven of Belize. Paska denies any involvement now, but certain coincidences challenge this claim, although he is no longer formally anything to do with the company. A company he helped set up and operate for years.
Medical Group SK, where Paska was executive from the setup of the company under a different name, is currently owned by Medical Group Europe s.r.o., based in the Czech Republic, which in turn is owned by RK 2, a.s., based in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, owned till 2012 by Hillside Holdings Ltd in the tax haven of Belize.
Everyone in Slovakia is well aware of all the dubious tenders, selection procedures and transactions taking place on a daily basis. Journalists can uncover the dirtiest and most blatant cases of fraud or embezzlement with taxpayers money, but little changes as nobody is ever held liable, with all allegations swept out of court, regardless of any clear connection to an emissions scandal or a tape recording of a prime minister talking about shadow party financing or the head of the judiciary talking with a convicted Albanian drugs lord.
At the end of the day, it is the people of Slovakia that are liable. Liable for voting certain characters into power and liable for allowing them to stay there, even in the face of the most obvious frauds. Most of all, the Slovak people are liable for their own passivity and apathy. If that were to change, more people would be taking to the streets on a daily basis, more people would be demanding rights that they are being deprived of, and more people would be not just demanding change, but contributing to it. Lets hope the upcoming generation will rise to this challenge and lead a new revolution in the knowledge that the people do have the power.