• September 17, 2012
  • 273

Protests in Warsaw against discrimination of Poles in Lithuania

Fot. Marcin Olszewski

On 14-15 September took place another protest against discrimination of Poles in Lithuania  which was attended by representatives of six organizations:  The Memoriae Fidelis Association, The Freedom and Democracy Foundation, The Association of the Borderlands’ Organizations, The Right of the Republic, KoLiber Association, The All-Polish Youth. 

At one p.m. the representatives of the protesters addressed an appeal to Mr. Knut Vollebæk – the High Commisioner on National Minorities in the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw. In the appeal signatories  – referring to the pre-election manipulations of the Lithuanian Main Electoral Commission which correct the boundaries and the number of electoral districts in Vilnius region in a discriminatory manner against Lithuanian Poles – pay attention to the inadequate response of the OSCE-representatives in Lithuania to the present situation in this country. They call for further analysis of the electoral situation and recommend sending international observers during the elections in October.

”Dear Commissioner — we write — what else can we analyse here.
The Lithuanian Electoral Commission (…) corrected the boundaries of the electoral districts in such a way that a third of Polish votes had been wasted. (…)
Isn’t it a visible discrimination of a national minority in the field of political rights preventing free choice of the appropriate number of representatives?
What’s the point in presence of the international observers during elections? The most important  step from the point of view of the election results has already been taken. Publicly and before your  very eyes. It’ s hard to imagine a forgery during elections that would influence their results just as the decision of the Lithuanian Electoral Commission did.

An hour later the protesters — 25 to 30 people — gathered in front of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister against a bilingual banner protesting against discrimination of Poles in Lithuania. They were acquainted with the content of the Appeal addressed to Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk. We reminded the Prime Minister of his last year’s ( September 4th, 2012) visit in Vilnius and promises made by him in a place of great importance to Poles, namely Gate of Dawn:

”(…) we will take special care of your expectations, dreams and aspirations, also in the context of education which has become such a hot issue in recent weeks here in Lithuania (…). The realities  of Polish education in Lithuania will be under the special, constant care of the Polish government”;
”Relations between Poland and Lithuania will be as good as relations between the Lithuanian state and Polish minority”;
”I promise you that”.

”Mr. Prime Minister, we think that — we wrote in the conclusion — it is high time you kept your promise. It is not our task to suggest what you should or can do. We are convinced that the Polish Prime Minister knew he had to implement this kind of commitment, once it was made and… had  an idea of steps that have to be taken in order to achieve this goal”.

After the Appeal was read, Aleksander Szycht (Memoriae Fidelis) pointed out the unfulfilled promises of taking care of our compatriots  (school supplies —  just a single action). Krzysztof Kawęcki (The Right of the Republic) spoke about the discrimination of Poles in Lithuania.  Adam Chajewski (The Association of the Borderlands’ Organizations) described the last year’s visit of Prime Minister in Vilnius and all that happened after as fire fighting (expanding strike of students and teachers in Polish schools and parents’ protests). Seweryn Szwarocki (KoLiber) talked about the rules of democracy — authorities that are accountable for the promises made, respect for the minority rights.

Then, the representatives of the protesting organizations were received in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister by the Deputy Director of  the Office of Complaints, Applications and Refugee Board Service. During the conversation we talked about the demands set out in the Appeal.
After the Appeal had been submitted in the Chancellery, the participants of the demonstration went to the Embassy of Lithuania where a gradually decreasing number of participants — about 30-35 till 6 a.m. — continued protesting all night despite the cold weather  — till 7 a.m. Demonstrators listened to a phone statement of Mr. Władysław Korowajczyk from the Society of Friends of Vilnius and Vinius region who referred to the discrimination of Poles by the Lithuanian authorities and to deputy Artur Górski who brought up an issue of possible nationalist provocations during the October elections in Lithuania.

A specific colour to our protest was added by Mr. Eldoradas Butrimas – a ”Lietuvos Rytas” correspondent in Warsaw who accompanies us often during our manifestations. We ( the undersigned as well) had a heated debate with him especially about the violations of the Polish-Lithuanian Treaty. In spite of – or maybe because of – the ignorance of basic facts (our interlocutor argued for example  that local governments are responsible for the return of the grounds) we didn’t manage to come any closer to finding a compromise.
The protest attracted interest among passers-by, even those walking at night. They were interested in listening to its causes, took leaflets with them. Some, in solidarity with our compatriots in Lithuania took part in the protest for some time.

Adam Chajewski
The Association of the Borderlands’ Organizations

Source: http://kurierwilenski.lt/2012/09/17/w-warszawie-protestowano-przeciwko-dyskryminacji-polakow-na-litwie-2/

Tłumaczenie Ewelina Zarembska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Ewelina Zarembska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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