Kiska bids farewell to president Michal Kováč

The state funeral of former President Michal Kováč was held on Thursday. President Andrej Kiska delivered a speech at the memorial service held at St. Martin’s Cathedral:

"We are gathered here today because the first president of the free and democratic Slovakia has left us. We are gathered here to pay our respects to President Michal Kováč. To share grief with his closest family and pain over the loss of a man who influenced our lives and who was not intimidated by the responsibility for the direction our country was to take.

Our lives represent the private history of many of our decisions - trivial, mundane, but also principal, fundamental and fatal ones. Also - the history of countries, the history of victories and failures are the history of our decisions.

I dare say that in the short history of our country - the Slovak Republic - no constitutional official has had to make decisions as difficult and painful as Mr. President Kováč did. Because nobody else who had decided to serve the country, had to come to terms with such a sharp contrast between the public good of the country and the immediate need to protect the security, privacy and reputation of their immediate family.

In 1994 Michal Kováč said: “Everyone who thinks that the president can be intimidated or discouraged and deterred from fulfilling the obligations he has solemnly sworn to is wrong”. When he spoken these words, he could not have known at the time, how much his resolve would soon be put to the test. Because those in power did not stop at anything - not even at his son's abduction.

I cannot fathom the deep doubts of President Kováč, in defending the public interest. How great was his ordinary human fear for his loved ones? This I cannot imagine, but I know, that it was also through the words and actions of Michal Kováč that the political evil of the 90s was defeated. In addition, thanks to his brave decisions and the manner in which he carried out duties of the head of state, the history of independent Slovakia remained the history of a free and democratic state, which became part of a united Europe.

I did not know the President privately and it is not for me to speak on his behalf. Nevertheless, even if only on the basis of our brief meetings and discussions, I think he would have liked for us to talk today about the matters that troubled him most. Matters he was not able to resolve by the end of his life.

It is true that two decades have passed since the time when President Kováč struggled for the heart and character of our country. It is true that we have politically defeated the evil against which he fought. But as a society, we were not able to come to terms with this evil.

The kidnapping of the president's son, the murder of a key witness and many other crimes, injustices and iniquities remain unpunished. However, the feelings of anger, helplessness or determination gradually faded. Memories remained, and even those are year after year slowly petering out of public debate. Actually, we have been reminded again by the departure of the man who will be forever synonymous with this struggle for the future of Slovakia.

I think that our duty to deal with the evil from two decades ago remains open. The time that has elapsed since then, has not smoothed over this duty. We are obliged to settle this chapter of our history not only because we owe it to President Michal Kováč - but also because we owe it to ourselves, our country and our society.

We must not - none of us those responsible for the governance of public affairs - treat the crimes of the Mečiar era as the past which would better be left alone. It is not possible to talk with a clear conscience about respect for the law, justice and one’s own country when the perpetrators of state-sponsored organized crime continue to enjoy protection by an amnesty which makes it impossible for them to face justice. This interpretation of the rule of law is formal. Even today, we see where formal interpretation of the law and justice leads. It leads to the weakening of confidence in the state and its institutions.

Dear funeral gathering, one of the powers of the President is to deliver an annual report on the state of our country. I read the first report on the state of the Slovak Republic, presented by President Kováč in March 1994.

He warned us, for example, of the corruption, which was spreading throughout the country. He voiced his concern about the developments in the political sphere - a battlefield “with many battles leading nowhere, with many losing their judgment, their own face and character.” He talked about intensifying mistrust in politicians, which leads to the apathy and disillusionment of  the general public.

No, I do not want to say that since the first report on the state of the Slovak Republic the Slovak political scene has not changed that much. This is not true, and I think that President Kováč would not agree with this assessment either. But I think that his struggle for the character of Slovakia continues, although in a different context and facing new challenges.

We cannot change the past, but it is within our power to redress the past injustices. It is within our power to manage public affairs so that every year we will be able to write a better report on the state of the republic. In this manner we show respect to the people like President Michal Kováč. Not only today, when we’ve come to say goodbye to him, but every day of our lives, through specific actions and the right decisions.

Dear President Michal Kováč, for your actions, for your prudent decisions, for your struggle for the future of our country, I wish to thank you on behalf of every Slovak citizen. Honour and respect to your memory."