Prague, Oct 28 (CTK) – Rectors of several universities laid flowers at the statue of first Czechoslovak President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (1918-1935) on Saturday, repeating a ritual started a few years ago within which they ignore the official celebrations staged by President Milos Zeman.

The rectors thus maintained their joint position on the official celebrations organised by the Presidential Office, which started in 2014.

The rectors reacted to Zeman not inviting Masaryk University Rector Mikulas Bek and South Bohemia Rector Libor Grubhoffer Rector to the celebrations over disputes he had with them.

This year, all state and public universities’ rectors apart from Bek were invited to the presidential seat. Grubhoffer had ended in the post.

Before the rectors, the flowers were symbolically laid at the statue by presidential candidate Jiri Drahos and after them by representatives of the Presidential Office.

“I do not know whether this year this was the last time when I do not take part in the ceremony. I would be naturally happy if the composition at the Prague Castle, the seat of Czech head of state, changed,” Bek said.

Instead of the official ceremony, the rectors meet at the statue of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, a symbol of democracy in Czechoslovakia.

“We are glad to be able to see one another on October 28 when we jointly celebrate the national holiday,” Bek said.

“We have a lunch together, spending our time in a dignified and pleasant way in a good company,” he added.

He said by not being at the Prague Castle, a good traditions started in which a large part of the rectors including those from outside Prague meet.

“This year, I take part in the event as a presidential candidate, but in the previous years, I always expressed solidarity with the rectors,” Drahos, a former Czech Science Academy head, told CTK.

He said he disagreed with the position Zeman assumed on the naming of new professors.

Drahos will not go to the official act in the evening either.

“Since the time Zeman stopped inviting some rectors to the Prague Castle, I have been excusing myself. I consider his approach undignified,” Drahos said.