President Vaclav Klaus, addressing a ceremonial meeting of the Chamber of Deputies, said the Czech Republic's communist past should not be oversimplified. He said communism was part of Czech history and was therefore part of the national identity. Mr Klaus said the best way to come to terms with the country's communist past was to be positive today, and in so doing build a society which would not allow the emergence of similar regimes.
Wreathes were laid on Wednesday at a memorial to Jan Opletal, a medical student who died on November 17, 1939. A procession to his grave in 1989 on International Students Day turned into the first demonstration of the Velvet Revolution, when students broke away from the authorized route and marched into the centre of Prague.
Meanwhile, the student demonstration which sparked the changes of 1989
was reenacted in the Czech capital, beginning at Albertov and
continuing to Narodni and later to Wenceslas Square. The march was
entitled "Podzim bez komunistu" ("Autumn without Communists"), in
protest at the present-day Communist Party.
On Wednesday evening a huge free concert called "Narodni Jinak" ("Narodni Otherwise") was held on the city centre street.
During a speech by the leader of the Communist Party, Miroslav
Grebenicek, several MPs walked out of the Chamber, as did former
president Havel. President Klaus remained seated during Mr Grebenicek's
Before the Chamber of Deputies meeting police broke up a heated demonstration outside the headquarters of the Communist Party organized by the Young Conservatives.
A number of events have been held in Prague to mark the anniversary of the
beginning of the Velvet Revolution, which led to the collapse of the
communist regime in 1989. President Vaclav Klaus, former president Vaclav
Havel and Prime Minister Stanislav Gross laid flowers at the spot where
riot police attacked a peaceful student demonstration on Narodni trida
exactly 15 years ago.
Mr Havel, the former dissident who led the Velvet Revolution and was elected president shortly after the fall of communism, was greeted by cheers of "long live Havel, long live Havel".
Other politicians and many ordinary Czechs laid wreathes and lit candles at the memorial on Narodni Street throughout the day.
The police has charged five people with trafficking in babies. According to police spokeswoman Iva Knolova further arrests may follow. Several days ago the police prevented a planned transaction at Trebic airport, arresting a doctor and young woman as they were preparing to hand over a newborn to a childless couple. The woman had a large amount of cash in her possession. According to the police spokeswoman the ringleader is a woman and the gang includes a head of department of a maternity ward. Those involved could face up to ten years in prison.
The Czech government has delayed a decision on selling its majority stake in the telecommunications operator Cesky Telecom, amidst a ministerial split on how best to proceed. Several ministers, including Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, favour a flotation on the capital markets but others claim that selling to a strategic investor would be a better long term option. A floatation of the state's 51 percent stake would bring immediate funds to the cash-strapped government. Several previous attempts to sell the government's stake in Telecom failed.
The Cabinet has approved pension bonuses for former political prisoners and labour camp inmates under the communist regime. Meeting on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the protests that led to the fall of communism, the Cabinet approved a directive according to which former prisoners of conscience should in future receive regular bonuses to their pensions, 50 crowns for every month that they had spent in a communist prison or labour camp. According to the Confederation of Political Prisoners the new directive will affect some 6,000 former political prisoners. Those eligible will have to apply for the bonus.
A transsexual is planning to sue the Czech military for discrimination, after the army refused to employ her as a driver. Thirty eight year old Jaroslava Brokesova was turned away despite the fact that she passed all the necessary tests. The military's health committee rejected her application on the grounds that she had undergone a sex change operation. Brokesova says she plans to file two law suits, the first in an attempt to overturn the committee's decision, the second to claim damages for having been forced to make her case public.
The health minister, Milada Emmerova, has presented the government with her draft five-year plan to reform the nation's heath-care system. Her proposals include increasing state oversight of health insurers and reducing spending on drugs. Ms Emmerova also proposed that every state hospital appoint an ombudsman to address patients' concerns.
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