Meanwhile in Cuckooland 171

Yet another success of the Polish government! Today, on Monday the 12th, Prime Morawiecki arrived in Katowice to open the newly built roundabout and the tunnel. He made a speech about how much cash his government is spending on building local roads. Local people were astonished, but not with the numbers he was mentioning. On the contrary, they looked at him with disbelief, wondering what on earth he is doing here: the central government did not chip a single penny – of the 100 000 000 zł of the project cost, 72 million came from the EU and the rest was paid by the city. And the drivers were using it since December

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I like the idea of opening the roads one had absolutely nothing to do with when they were built, so if my Czech readers need someone to celebrate the opening of, say, Charles’ Bridge in Prague, then please, count me in! I am sure I can give a nice speech praising myself! But I doubt Morawiecki went to Katowice to have fun. PiS seems to be desperate for some successes. Because things are not going good for them.

First, there was a case of Ryszard Czarnecki, PiS MEP, who has been caught faking his expenses in order to leech money from the Euro-parliament. He was just ordered to return the money – allegedly as much as 100 000 euro – he claimed for things like travelling from locations further away than his home, or driving with a car, that has been scrapped 9 years earlier. In the act of amazing optimism, the Euro-parliament reported his case to the Polish prosecutors. As per legal steps Czarnecki was threatening to undertake towards people accusing him of fraud, so far we heard nothing.

Also, the scandal with the director of State Forests, who purchased a house from his own institution applying to himself a 95% discount (see last week’s chapter) did not go well. Not only PiS compromised itself by claiming it is all fake news, but then sacking him on the spot for it, but his replacement is widely considered to be a man connected to Zbigniew Ziobro, PiS sidekick who’s trying to grab more power from PiS (although the final decision is still to be made, the new man is still only an acting director).

President Duda also had some hard times. His social media team published a picture of him talking on the phone with the King of Jordan, and those pesky internet users noticed that the phone’s cable is not plugged in, which was met with widespread ridicule. The president’s spokesperson runs to assure everyone, that the phone was in fact switched in using a different socket on the side of the device, not visible on the picture, but the fact that nobody even assumed that this might be an explanation and jumped straight to ridiculing the president shows, that the vast chunk of the nation shares writer’s Jakub Żulczyk opinion that Andrzej Duda is an idiot.

But the biggest blow came from the courts. Some of them are still independent and one of them upheld a protest of Adam Bodnar, Citizen Rights Ombudsman, and suspended take over of the Polska Press – the company that controls the majority of the Polish local media market – by government-controlled PKN Orlen. Now the Ombudsman objections will be a matter of deliberation, as he pointed out, rightly, that this take over is a big blow to the freedom of the media in Poland, and thus allows for the de facto monopoly of the media controlled by the government.

Adam Bodnar is a pain in the backside for PiS. Citizen Rights Ombudsman is the only institution still not even partly controlled by PiS. His term of service ended in September last year, and the situation remains a stalemate. PiS would like to replace him with some party servant, just as they did with Constitutional Tribunal, for example, but since they have lost the majority in the Senate it is impossible. On the other hand, they won’t allow the opposition to appoint someone independent – like renowned human rights lawyer Zuzanna Rudzińska-Bluszcz, who, after being mistreated by the parliament for months withdrew her candidacy. PiS decided to break this stalemate by using the Constitutional Tribunal, which they are taken over, so Julia Przyłębska and her Tribunal staged an attempt to declare extension to Bodnar’s terms unconstitutional. Watching this pitiful show is just sad, as Bodnar, who was asked to turn up, dominates intellectually and with this legal knowledge over his opponents. His moves – such as a demand to see the documents Przyłębska refers to – simply confuse her, and PiS politicians openly admit that they claim that the rule is unconstitutional only because PiS has no majority in Senate, which makes it impossible to appoint the new ombudsman they would like. At the moment of writing the proceedings have been adjourned, but since Przyłębska appointed solely PiS puppets to the bench, it is unlikely that the Tribunal ruling will go against Kaczyński’s wishes. Because it has been decided: if Poles can’t have Citizen Rights Ombudsman, who would not defend them from PiS, then they cannot have any.

But for PiS of course the most important event was the 11th Anniversary (or, as they like to call it, 132nd mont-iversary) of the Smoleńsk crash. Or, if we believe the movie published by the Antoni Macierewicz “subcommission to investigate Smoleńsk disaster”, it was an assassination. Nobody was openly accused, but the movie leaves no doubt that Donald Tusk and Russian Secret Services are all over it. The “throughout” analysis proves, that there were two bombs placed in the plane. The first one cut away one of the wings, which caused the plane to turn upside down, and then the other one exploded in the passenger section. Meanwhile, Russian air traffic control was deliberately guarding the Polish plane so it had to hit the ground anyway. The commission fails to explain, why on earth Russian traffic controllers should misguide the plane that was to explode anyway, or why would anyone want to place to explosion devices, of which first would just cripple the plane and only the second finish the destruction. The voice recordings from the black box also haven’t picked up any explosion sounds, apparently, the pilots also haven’t noticed that one of their wings just have been blown away, but the commission (for the first time) published the records right to its last seconds, with the cries of dying people, which angered the victim’s families.

Unfortunately, the public doesn’t share PiS obsession with the Smoleńsk crash any more. Believers in the assassination are openly ridiculed, even by public personas (Radek Sikorski for example asks if, since the crash was not an accident but an assassination, Marta Kaczyńska (daughter of president Lech Kaczyński) will be willing to return the compensation she got from the insurers, as the policy was not covering assassinations). The celebrations in Warsaw were also not welcomed, so the PiS, as usual, had to ensure a strong police presence. Reinforcements were brought from all over the country

and the city was, once again, divided by police barriers. Snipers could be seen on the roofs. Citizens who gathered under the Smoleńsk monument have been forcibly removed, some of them arrested.

The opposition activists tried to shift the attention to the more recent victims. Inspired by an event in Prague some time ago, they tried to painting crosses on the slabs of Piłsudskiego square to commemorate COVID-19 victims. They pointed out that the pandemics took the lives of 58 176 Poles so far, many of whom died due to the government’s incompetence, would fill 606 Tupolev planes like the one that crashed in Smoleńsk. But, once again it was proven that SOME victims are more important than others: The police had broken the happening, accused the activist of vandalism, and the crosses were removed overnight with the use of pressure washers.

The government media was sharing its airtime between covering all things Kaczyński related (I won’t write Smoleńsk anniversary related, as I can’t see how broadcasting live his visit to his mother grave is in any way related to the crash) and attacking Donald Tusk (who again pointed out, that it was Lech Kaczyński’s own decision to take over organization of his trips, and that he was known for forcing pressure on pilots).

As usual, Kaczyński is above the law. He can go to his mom’s grave with an entourage or at least dozen other people, while ordinary people can’t give the farewell to their loved ones – only 5 people are allowed on the funeral, and that includes the undertakers (of course, there is an exception for religious funerals, here the limit is one person per 20 square metres – and applies only indoors). As Kaczyński and PiS were performing their monthly spectacle of grave-dancing, the police crashed and disbanded a wedding in which 81 guests participated. The organizers might face charges of “bringing the epidemiological risk to the public”, punished by up to 8 years in prison. In Białystok, police forced a group of people who gathered to exercise outside – as a protest against closing gyms – to disband.

In Głogów participants of another anti-lockdown protest were brutally attacked by the police. The footage of the police officer strangling and beating a woman has been widely circulated on the internet:

The police explained, that the women, as well as two other detained people, was behaving aggressively towards the officers, but the footage only makes things worse, as it is clearly showing the group peacefully leaving the area and turning towards the police only after one of the officers began to jerk the woman’s clothes. Only then she shouted at the policemen to “get to fuck” and other men also turned against the police asking to leave her alone.

Another gathering during which the social distancing was not observed took place at Jasna Góra sanctuary, where hundreds of bikers gathered for their annual pilgrimage, which outraged the public. “Why the police are not there?” – asked several people on my social media feed.

Well, worry not. The police WERE THERE, and one of the officers even addressed the gathered crowd. Here is the footage:

“I would like to warmly welcome everyone. I am very pleased to see, that despite the present situation in the country we have met here in such big numbers” she says. I’ll end my piece here, I won’t be able to come with any better punchline this week.

This piece was written for Britské Listy
Picture of Adam Bodnar: Office of the Polish Ombudsman via OSCE (License: Creative Commons, no derivative work)



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