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New protests planed against Communist councillor in Karlovy Vary region

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Karlovy Vary/ Dozens of people in the Karlovy Vary region will gather outside the Thermal Hotel in Karlovy Vary on Wednesday 5 p.m. to show disagreement with the appointment of the communist party member Václav Sloup as regional councillor for education. Many religious and student movements along with the Confederation of Political Prisoners are planning to speak at the demonstration.

A number of teachers and students from across the region are strongly opposing Sloup’s involvement with the local government because of his activities under communism. Mr Sloup was a loyal member of the Communist Party, served as a soldier and then as an army officer in charge of a patrol unit guarding the border with Germany. He was responsible for political affairs and conducting political training for soldiers. He is still and active and committed member of the party whose opinions haven’t changed in the interim.

Teachers of the Karlovy Vary region already called for Sloup’s dismissal in an open letter sent to the local government last month. They want to replace him with another politician of a less controversial choice. Students also voiced their discontent and sent a statement of their disagreement to the Councillor of Education’s office before Christmas.

In reaction to complaints by students from the Cheb gymnasium, the non-communist councillors from the local town hall asked the mayor Pavel Vanoušek (ČSSD) to discuss the matter with the Karlovy Vary governor Josef Novotný.

Communist councillor Pavel Hojda said that the students who protest against Mr Sloup are manipulated and act like sheep. Immediate reaction to this statement was from teacher Antonín Jalovec of the Cheb gymnasium who asked Hojda to apologise to the students. “Do you really think these people will act as you tell them? They are free citizens and the future of our town and you offended them,” he said.

At a meeting of municipal councillors in Karlovy Vary held in December councillors voted on the dismissal of Mr Sloup. The council was split across party lines and the Social Democrats with the KSČM defeated the proposal. Jaroslav Borka, the Karlovy Vary councillor for KSČM, said that Václav Sloup is a skillful manager who wouldn’t interfere with the schools’ curriculum and therefore there is no reason to replace him.

The teachers met with Borka who assured them of Sloup’s good intentions. But Sloup’s recent statements contradict Borka’s assurances. Sloup is suggesting for example to close down a number of high schools in the region.

Teachers aren’t satisfied with the outcome of the municipal meeting. They have launched a petition which has been signed so far by nearly 3,000 people from all over the Czech Republic. „We don’t question the results of the elections but we ask for the replacement of the councillor for education Václav Sloup,“ teachers say in the petition.

The signatories and opponents fear return of pre-1989 practices. The councillor for education has a great power. He can close down or merge secondary and primary schools, dismiss teachers or recall principals. He has also control over finances for schools and its facilities. First controversial actions already took place when the principal of the Sokolov gymnasium Jiří Widž had to explain why he didn’t invite a communist member to the screening of a documentary about communism to defend the regime.

Hoai Le Thi is finishing her studies at a secondary grammar school in Cheb this year and would like to continue as a student of journalism in Great Britain.

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