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22.05.2008 | Halya Coynash

In defence of constitutional rights in Donetsk

   

It was announced on Thursday that the Mayor of Donetsk Oleksandr Lukyanenko had suspended an extraordinary decision by the City Council to restrict the planned number of schools and pre-schools teaching in Ukrainian. The Mayor refused to sign the decision from 20 May “On the implementation of a comprehensive programme for the development of education in Donetsk for 2006-2010, and it has been returned for further consideration.

His was not the only official voice of dissent (outrage having been expressed unofficially on many an Internet forum and the like). 

The Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Science and Education Volodymyr Polokhalo told Deutsche Welle that the ban on opening new Ukrainian language elementary schools and kindergartens was a return to the old Soviet form of forced Russification. While calling it an “unprecedented case in European practice where parents and children are forced to study Russian”, he added that there has been no official response from the Ministry.  The latter’s press service told DW that they were awaiting official papers from Donetsk.

All’s well that ends well? 

Not so sure.  Obviously the Mayor’s refusal to sign such an outrageous document is to be welcomed.  On the other hand, the very fact that it required this suggests a certain worrying trend to tolerate political gestures where they are absolutely intolerable.

This means wherever they gravely infringe Ukrainians’ constitutional rights.

We do not need to prove the devastatingly obvious through reference to Ukraine’s highest law.  The onus must be on politicians to demonstrate that such restrictions do not run counter to people’s constitutional rights and liberties.

Where they intrude upon people’s right to be educated in the official language of Ukraine, and on parents’ rights with regard to the education of their children, they are not indulging in political sabre-rattling, they are in breach of the Constitution.  

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