The murder of prominent lawyer Ernest Valko last week has shaken the country as it points to certain shortcomings in Slovak society. Those who knew the man have defended him as a man of principles who was entirely innocent and who should definitely not have suffered such a fate.
The incident has raised many questions as to how Slovaks see their own society, behave towards each other and certain unwritten rules that seem still to pervade here. This is not the subjective opinion of a foreigner who has lived here for 21 years, but the sentiments expressed by prominent figures in Slovak society, many of them close friends of Ernest Valko, such as František Mikloško, Peter Zajac, Alojz Rakúsa, Pavel Hollander and others on the Lampa programme of TV Joj Plus.
There are all kinds of speculations about who murdered Ernest Valko and what the motive was, but until investigations reach a conclusion, these will remain mere speculations, possibly forever. The fact that Mr. Valko could smell acetate in his home before his doorbell rang that fateful evening of 8 November (it can put off sniffer dogs), and the fact that he was killed by a single bullet to the heart, points to the strong possibility that it was a professional killer who had come to visit him.
This was no accident, but a calculated move with hidden motives. Valko was involved in large corporate cases where a lot of money is at stake, so it is hard to believe that money and greed had nothing to do with his death. There lies the problem.
Throughout Slovakia we regularly see and hear of people’s cars being set on fire over some financial dispute or personal vendettas being settled, with cronyism and corruption so ripe that it even merited a top place in discussions between the PM Iveta Radicova and Hillary Clinton in the USA recently. The New York Times also published a timely article during her visit on how Slovakia was sucking money out of the EU in the various dubious tenders and via misappropriation of funds.
These kinds of problems exist in every country, it’s true, but maybe in Slovakia the swift switch between communism and full-blown capitalism has had a lot to do with it, as people scrambled to get on top of the pile of gold that had suddenly appeared before them. It seems that too many people have come into money for the wrong reasons, and the weak degree of law enforceability makes this all too easy for those whose conscience is numb.
One of Valko’s associates commented after his murder that in this profession (advocacy), that is the risk they take. What a ridiculous and extremely sad thing to say, as if accepting this ‘system’ of behaviour is what we should be doing instead of doing everything to combat it.
Everything comes down to motives. When certain people are motivated to put human life second behind financial or personal gain, maybe that is when the rest should become motivated to fight back more and reclaim our evaporating human dignity. Every action or inaction counts.