MINISTER OF FINANCE Riikka Purra (PS) has distanced herself from her earlier comments on online message boards, reports Helsingin Sanomat.
“My angry text was just angry text, nothing else. I don’t approve, nor have I ever approved, of any kind of violence,” she tweeted before 10pm on Monday, justifying her earlier comments with a “frustration and hopelessness” about “certain ripple effects of immigration” in Finland.
The effects, she added, include “harassment and sex crimes against women, and the unequal practices of Islam”.
“In this position, at this stage in life and at this age, I naturally wouldn’t write anything like that and I no longer agree with many of the things. I’ve expressed myself in ways that I wouldn’t approve today.”
The tweets were a response to intensifying speculation on social media that she contributed a series of racist posts under the username “riikka” on Scripta, the blog of current Speaker of the Parliament Jussi Halla-aho (PS). While she has admitted to commenting in the guestbook of the blog, she has directly neither confirmed nor denied using the username in question.
The username made the following post on 25 August 2008.
“Greetings from Barcelona. There isn’t an ‘alarming immigration problem’ here. [Racial slur] sell fake Vuittons on Las Ramblas, scarves are hidden and everyone in their place. Must be bullshit, that too,” the post reads.
“If only you could harness this amount of nationalism to your own country. *sigh*. You wouldn’t have time to focus on [racial slur].”
Helsingin Sanomat on Monday highlighted that Purra, nee Niskakari, was in Barcelona on the day in question, attending a graduate conference at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She was participating in a panel discussion on political theory as an expert in normative theory and multiculturalism, according to the conference brochure.
It is unlikely, the newspaper estimated, that two Finnish-speaking people named Riikka with an interest in multiculturalism were in the city at the same time.
Purra was 31 years old at the time of the conference.
Also a number of other details shared by the blog commentator about their life appear to point to Purra, such as their marriage to a journalist and life in Tampere, Turku and Kirkkonummi. Purra also sent Helsingin Sanomat a guest contribution about a writing by two researchers that had provoked an angry response from “riikka”.
Overall, comments made under the username contain a number of racist slurs, such as the N-word, “mocha willies” and “Turkish ape,” and reflect strong opposition to Islam and hostility toward Somalis, the newspaper analysed.
They also contain references to violence.
On 25 September 2008, a comment attributed to the username described an incident with young people of immigrant backgrounds on a train. “If someone gave me a gun, there’d be bodies on the commuter train,” it reads.
Purra appeared more defiant in a blog post published earlier yesterday. In it she reminded that she has contributed to a number of online forums and discussion boards since the early 2000s.
“Before the elections, in the winter, and now again zealous people have waded through the guestbook of Halla-aho’s Scripta blog, looking for sins by yours truly. We’re talking about the year 2008. That’s almost 10 years before I started in politics,” she wrote. “I’m sure it’ll continue because the internet contains thousands of my writings. A neat pastime for archaeologists.”
Iltalehti contacted Purra in February to request a comment on whether she was known as “riikka” on the blog. She declined to comment at the time but tweeted, while the daily was still working on its story, that it is positive that people are still reading the blog.
“If only the rummagers learnt something from what they read,” the tweet reads.
She wrote in her blog yesterday that although she would not say, write or do all of the things she had done before as a lawmaker and cabinet member, she feels no need to reject or apologise for the comments.
“It wouldn’t cross my mind to reject or apologise for my actions or comments from years and decades past,” wrote Purra. “I’ve certainly written and said things that are stupid or absurd or harsh or badly chosen. I’ve certainly also used bad humour according to current standards – I still do that, by the way, as do most of the people I know.”
“I certainly don’t agree with nearly all of the things. I agree with many, but I have no intention of taking part in a game with the left about what I agree with and what I don’t agree with. Or whether I wrote this or that. There’d be no end to that,” she wrote.
Purra began the post by portraying the media attention as a political attack against the Finns Party. The attack, she argued, rests on “true or made-up claims” about spots in the records of politicians before they became ministers or before their political career.
“Minister [Vilhelm] Junnila was made to resign, so they have no reason to stop. Once you get a taste of blood,” she wrote.
CORRECTION (27 July): Purra in her blog referred to a Turkish ape, in the singular, rather than Turkish apes.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT