Former president Havel enters CzechTek fray

03-08-2005

The CzechTek saga continues to stir the usually calm waters of Czech politics in the summer season. Former president Vaclav Havel has now entered the fray, after he was asked to act as mediator between the Czech government and organisers of the techno party which was violently dispersed by riot police at the weekend. But not everyone is happy with the initiative.

Vaclav Havel, photo: CTKVaclav Havel, photo: CTK Sixteen years ago the dissident playwright Vaclav Havel negotiated the peaceful end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, elevating him to legendary status both at home and abroad. Now the former president has become involved in protests of a very different kind. On Tuesday he attended a demonstration outside the Interior Ministry by hundreds of techno fans, angry at the police crackdown. Here's what he told reporters.

"It was an attack against a kind of authentic togetherness, an authentic community, ie something which in this age - filled as it is with egoism and cynicism - society desperately needs."

Demonstration in Brno, photo: CTKDemonstration in Brno, photo: CTK But not everyone is happy with the former president's support for CzechTek. Analyst Jiri Pehe, who served as political advisor to Vaclav Havel for several years, says this time Mr Havel has got it wrong.

"Well I think that's completely off the mark, because these people may be authentic, but they certainly do not respect the rights of other people. And I think if that's an alternative to cynicism and egoism then we are really in bad shape."

And Jiri Pehe says comparisons between the CzechTek affair and the non-violent anti-Communist protests of 1989 are also invalid.

Demonstration in Brno, photo: CTKDemonstration in Brno, photo: CTK "We have a state based on the rule of law and we have mechanisms to investigate this and we have a free media which in a way are already reacting. People can demonstrate. So I think comparing this to 1989 really is not entirely correct. Moreover, as far as I know, and reports coming in are suggesting this, it seems there were more policemen hurt in all of this than participants of the techno party. So I don't know whether this was an entirely peaceful crowd that was brutally attacked by police. I think we should try and see this in a more objective way."

Mr Havel has been asked to mediate between organisers of the techno party and the government. He's already held talks this morning with Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan. CzechTek have so far refused the offer of dialogue.

03-08-2005