Senator in hot water after secret recording captures racist remarks|
A popular senator and local mayor from the north Moravian city of Ostrava
is fighting accusations of racism, following the release on Tuesday of a
recording of a local housing committee meeting. Senator Liana Janackova is
apparently heard making derogatory and threatening remarks about Romanies
in her ward, remarks which she says have been taken out of context.
Liana Janackova is no stranger to controversy. In 1997, as hundreds of
Ostrava Romanies began emigrating to Canada, she offered to pay for their
plane tickets on condition they gave up their right to council housing.
Now she's back in the news, thanks to a secret recording of a meeting with
local residents about a controversial Romany settlement called Bedriska.
"I'll tell you this - I don't agree with any kind of integration.
Unfortunately, I'm a racist. I don't believe in integrating gypsies so
that they'd be living throughout the district. Unfortunately we chose
Bedriska, so that's where they'll be, surrounded by a high fence, an
electric fence if you like, and I'll happily shout that out to the whole
At first Senator Janackova, who is not a member of any political party,
denied outright making the remarks. She later admitted at least some of
the words on the 42-minute recording could have been hers, but explained
to Czech Television that she was posing rhetorical questions during what
was a heated debate.
"I never said seriously that I'm a racist. And if I did use such
words, well it was more like - so what am I supposed to do with them?
Round them up and stick them behind a high fence?"
The recording also contains what sounds like Mrs Janackova saying one
alternative to the housing problem would be to blow up the Romanies with
dynamite. A man identified as the deputy mayor is then heard asking
whether someone would give him permission to shoot them.
The recording is almost a year old, and only came to the attention of the
media thanks to Radomir Michniak, Mrs Janackova's predecessor as mayor of
Ostrava's Marianske Hory and Hulvaky district. She says her rival has
deliberately released the material in a bid to discredit her. But for
Ostrava community worker Kumar Vishwanathan, local political feuds are
"We are still just one generation away from the horrors of the 30s
and the 40s. So we're living in the shadow of a very dangerous historical
experience. And if a responsible, respected senator and a mayor of a town
says these things, even if it was a joke, I think the person should bear
responsibility for these words. It just strengthens a climate and a
feeling of just what is still possible in this part of the world."
Mrs Janackova is a member of the Senate's human rights committee. On
Tuesday Mr Vishwanathan submitted the recording to the chairman of the
committee, demanding an explanation. According to the latest Czech media
reports, the committee has voted not to investigate the affair.