Leon Kieres, head of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) announced that as of 7 February, access to information the security service collected during the Communist era would be made available. Kieres told a news conference, "After ten years, Poles will be able learn the truth about data gathered on them." Well, almost the truth. In contrast to the manner in which the Gauk threw open Stasi Files in former East Germany, the names of agents/informers will be blackened out in the files. If people are really eager to know who informed on them they will have to file a separate application.
Additionally, according to a law passed in 1999, the IPN will only open secret police files for people it has judged to be victims of repression. Kieres also noted that applications would take approximately six months to process, adding that requests by older people would be treated with priority and that citizens of other countries could also apply. Well, what's six months after a lifetime?
The IPN was created only last year and Poland has been accused of dragging its feet in this process. Some critics attribute the stalling to the continued presence of (and pressure from) holdovers from the former system in the current administration. While this may be true, there may have been lessons learned from, for example, the opening of files in East Germany. Allegedly, when public access to former Communist State files was granted it sometimes tore relationships apart and only succeeded in scratching open raw wounds.
Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) Senator Zygmunt Ropelewski has been deemed a "lustration liar" by the Lustration Court. The court has found that Ropelewski concealed his collaboration with the Communist-era security services in his lustration statement. Citing documents from his file, reinforced by testimony from a former secret service officer, the court said Ropelewski was a secret and intentional informer from 1976 to 78. While Ropelewski admitted to meeting twice with the officer, he denied having been an agent. The court has yet to confirm its verdict, but if it does so Ropelewski will lose his senatorial mandate and be barred from public office for ten years.
No hoofs either
As of 7 February, Poland became the first country that has not currently reported Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE for short, but more commonly know to tabloid journalists as "mad cow disease") to broaden its import ban to include beef and beef-pork based gelatines and products containing them. The ban is an additional step being taken by the government in an effort to prevent the spread of BSE and the deadly human variety Creutzfeld-Jacob disease. In March 2000, the government prohibited the import of cattle feed that was based on meat and bone meal. In November, it banned live cattle, beef and products containing beef and bone meal from EU countries that reported BSE. Beginning on 6 February of this year, the ban was extended to all countries. The Agriculture Ministry said in a statement, "only pork, fish and poultry gelatine are allowed to be brought into Poland, provided that each transport will be examined."
Harry Potter is... Satan?
Saint Augustin's parish priest in Wrocław has lamented that the best-selling Harry Potter children's books advocate pagan ideas. According to the national daily Gazeta Wyborcza, during Sunday Mass the priest urged Catholics in Wrocław to prevent their children from reading the "offensive" books.
The priest warned his parish that the books by British author JK Rowling "spread pagan ideas and should not be read by children." The unnamed priest further added that the adventures "give the reader the impression that the world is governed by supernatural forces and that all problems can be solved by magic." He was quoted as saying; Harry Potter books portray "pagan practices that all Catholics must oppose."
Poland's 90 per cent Catholic population have not been immune to the series' popularity as hundreds of thousands of Polish-language copies have been sold and fans are holding their first national conference this Saturday in Warsaw. For the record, if Catholics were to oppose all pagan practices then they would have to re-schedule all major holidays, say goodbye to Easter eggs, Christmas trees, etc.
Small tremors or poor maintenance
Four miners were injured, one fatally, when a coalmine shaft collapsed on 5 February. Mining inspectors said the collapse occurred late Monday about 1000 meters below the surface at the Anna Mine in Silesia following a minor tremor. A 42-year-old miner died and three received moderate injuries and two others escaped without injury. The death is the fourth this year. 37 miners died in accidents last year, up from 27 in 1999. Questions remains whether the frequency of tremors has increased or if insufficient safety measures are to blame.
Police swoop in on car thieves
Warsaw police announced that, "the chief of the communication department from [Warsaw's] Mokotów district was co-operating with the Pruszkow gang and was legalizing stolen cars." Oops!
In an unprecedented sweep, police arrested 14 luxury car thieves who stole some 500 cars valued at approximately Zl 50 million (USD 12.5 million). "We cut off the main source of the gang's income," police claimed. Not bad for a night's work. In Wednesday night's raid, nine car thieves, two fences, the chief of the communication's department of the Mokotów municipality office and two other employees of the office were scooped up in the loving arms of the law.
Joanna Rohozińska, 9 February 2001
Prawo i Gospodarka
Polska Agencja Prasowa
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