Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Parliamentary Fact-Finding Committee: the Show Trial of Modern Times

Field makes case for his innocence, condemns committee
Written by Richard Field   
Friday, 17 June 2011
Fact-finding body to look into events surrounding evacuation of  Gyöngyöspata’s Roma
Dear Editor,
On 7 June the Fidesz-controlled parliament formally voted to establish a “fact-finding committee” to investigate: (1) the circumstances surrounding the transportation of Roma residents of Gyöngyöspata to holiday camps over Easter, (2) who “falsely claimed” this was an evacuation and why, (3) what role I played in all of this and “whose interests” I served by “falsely stating” that an evacuation had taken place, (4) what “domestic or foreign organisations supported my involvement” and what “foreign media outlets” were involved, (5) whose interest was served by “falsely portraying Hungary as being in a state of civil war” and “providing false information portraying Hungary in a negative light,” (6) what role opposition parties or opposition party members played in all of this, and (7) what domestic or foreign individuals “organised and supported financially those individuals, groups, and organisations falsely and illegally portrayed themselves as enforcers of the law in Gyöngyöspata and elsewhere”.
The Hungarian Civil Rights Union (TASZ) immediately denounced committee proceedings as reminiscent of the political show trials of the 1930s and 1950s, arguing that “an impartial investigation of these events should not begin its work with foregone conclusions as to who was guilty and what the truth is”.
It seems the Hungarian parliament is not interested why local police allowed uniformed vigilante guardsmen and members of various radical hate groups to terrorise Gyöngyöspata’s Roma inhabitants for 16 days in March, or why they failed to enforce existing statutes prohibiting threatening behaviour and violence against members of communities, or why it was necessary for several young men to end up in hospital before the government put a stop to attacks on Roma communities.
I first visited Gyöngyöspata on Saturday, 19 March, three days after the uniformed vigilantes had left for Hajdúhadház. I toured the Roma quarter on foot with local Roma leader, János Farkas, who explained to me in detail what had happened the previous three weeks. I also spoke to a number of families, including the one whose attempt to purchase a house outside the Roma ghetto had inspired Jobbik chairman Gábor Vona to invite the banned Magyar Gárda’s successor organisation to occupy Gyöngyöspata on the pretext of protecting its 2,800 inhabitants from “Gypsy crime.”
I returned to Gyöngyöspata on Thursday, 24 March with Red Cross volunteers to distribute food and other supplies, and again on Tuesday, 19 April, with Red Cross advisor István Mezei (a native of Gyöngyöspata) to meet with the mayor to discuss plans to open an after-school study centre and to put Gyöngyöspata’s Roma to work reinforcing the banks of the river that runs through their neighbourhood. At that meeting the mayor informed me he had resigned and left.
From there we went to Mr. Farkas’ home to inform him of this startling development. Mr. Farkas informed us that hundreds of armed paramilitaries were scheduled to hold military exercises on the hillside overlooking Gyöngyöspata’s Roma quarter during the Easter weekend. He told us that Gyöngyöspata’s Roma were at their wits’ end having been terrorised on and off for the better part of two months, and that he was afraid “this time somebody was going to get hurt.” On the basis of this conversation, István Mezei and I asked Erik Selymes, director of the Hungarian Red Cross, to remove the women and children to safety for the duration of the military exercises scheduled to coincide with the three-day Easter weekend.
For government officials to accuse me of deliberately “spreading fear and panic” and “staging a mock evacuation” is absurd and runs contrary to the facts, as does (state secretary responsible for Roma integration) Zoltán Balog’s calling my actions “reprehensible” when by any reasonable moral standard they were commendable.
Whether Roma residents were “evacuated” or “sent on a last-minute Easter holiday” as Mr. Selymes diplomatically put it, is irrelevant. Also irrelevant is how the press found out about it. All that is relevant is that the Hungarian Red Cross transported Roma women and children to holiday camps on Good Friday because for much of March and April local police looked the other way while uniformed vigilantes attempted to ethnically cleanse Gyöngyöspata of its Roma inhabitants.
Hungary suffers from a political system that is morally bankrupt. The arbiter of what is “right” and “wrong” is no longer Judeo-Christian ethics but political expedience which, by its very nature, is unscrupulous. In such a highly politicised environment in which the ruling party covets the title of “sole defender of the Hungarian people”, there can be no “role models” or “heroes,” only “agent provocateurs” and “traitors.”
God will judge my actions at Gyöngyöspata, not a parliamentary “fact-finding” committee.
Richard Field


Fidesz punishing Gyöngyöspata
Friday, 22 July 2011
Dear Editor,
On Sunday the inhabitants of the northeastern town Gyöngyöspata (population 2,800) went to the polls in a by-election to elect a new mayor. Because Hungarian by-elections are won by the candidate receiving the most votes in the first round, Jobbik candidate Oszkár Juhász won despite attracting a mere 433 votes (33.8 per cent) of 1,295 votes cast. The result is shocking not because the Jobbik candidate won but because Fidesz obviously let him win by failing to mobilise support for the sitting vice-mayor or the other “moderate” candidate. Perhaps this was Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s way of punishing the Gyöngyöspata Roma for rejecting Fidesz Roma politician Flórián Farkas, and for claiming their women and children were evacuated by the Hungarian Red Cross on Good Friday rather than sent on a previously arranged Easter holiday as the government maintains.
None of this bodes well for the future of pluralistic democracy in Hungary. 
Richard Field, USA
Editor’s note: An ad hoc parliamentary committee is investigating the Gyöngyöspata events, including Field’s role in the evacuation of the Roma women and children.

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