MINISTER OF FINANCE Riikka Purra (PS) has apologised for her old online comments after demands from several lawmakers that she and the entire government unequivocally reject racism, violence and discrimination.
“I apologise for my stupid comments on social media 15 years ago and the harm and grievance they have understandably caused. I’m not a perfect person, I’ve made mistakes,” she wrote yesterday afternoon on Twitter.
“When removed from their context and examined through modern-day lens, some of the writings look even worse than before. I don’t accept any kind of violence, racism or discrimination. People who know my values and ways of working know that.”
Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) thanked Purra for the apology, saying she had made “the right decision”.
“The government won’t collapse because of this. I hope that the government can start implementing its programme and that people have the opportunity to evaluate the measures and values of the government and ministers through actions,” he wrote on Twitter.
The National Coalition has stressed that the government is not claiming to stand behind shared values but rather behind shared economic objectives.
Purra has come under intense media scrutiny this week over media speculation that she could be behind a series of racist and violence-inciting comments made under the username ‘riikka’ on Scripta, the blog of current Speaker of the Parliament Jussi Halla-aho (PS). She has neither confirmed nor denied using the username while addressing the controversy.
Halla-aho, who is the presumptive presidential candidate of the Finns Party in 2024, stated to Ilta-Sanomat on Tuesday that the ongoing discussion is probably indicative of left-green activists and journalists "mourning" the end of the left-wing government.
“It was only a matter of time before they take aim at the next person,” he said, referring to the controversy that surrounded now ex-Minister of Economic Affairs Vilhelm Junnila (PS).
Purra on Monday stated in her blog that she would no longer do, say or write all of the things she has previously done, but she also refused to apologise and engage in what she said was a campaign orchestrated by the political left to undermine the Finns Party.
“It wouldn’t even cross my mind to reject or apologise for my actions and comments from years and decades past,” she declared.
She published a series of less defiant tweets in the evening, saying she has expressed herself “in ways and with words” she no longer approves of.
The apology itself did not come until a number of statements from leading policymakers. President Sauli Niinistö, who was asked about the situation yesterday at the Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, viewed that it would be smart if the government stated unequivocally that it has zero tolerance for racism.
“If the government manages to adopt [a clear stance against racism], I believe it’d send a good signal also to the rest of the world. You have to keep in mind that racism and the possible issues of immigration are two separate things,” he was quoted saying by Helsingin Sanomat.
Members of the Finns Party have routinely responded to racism allegations by insisting they are simply criticising immigration policy or speaking about the problems of immigration.
Minister of Education Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) on Tuesday told Helsingin Sanomat that she is shocked by the posts made under the username ‘riikka’.
“Irrespective of whether the user ‘riikka’ is Riikka Purra, it’d make coalition co-operation easier if Purra now clearly adopted the position that racism isn’t acceptable in any of its forms,” she underscored.
Minister of European Affairs and Ownership Steering Anders Adlercreutz (SFP) said on Twitter the racist and violence-inciting comments violate the letter and spirit of the government programme and are not acceptable from anyone.
Sanna Marin (SDP), the outgoing chairperson of the Social Democrats, demanded that the government unequivocally reject racism, hate speech and violence. She also drew attention to the reaction she received before the parliamentary elections by ruling out the possibility of coalition co-operation between the Social Democrats and Finns Party.
“This was criticised. Maybe there’s a bit more understanding now. There’s nothing new or surprising about what has surfaced in recent weeks about the [Finns Party],” she tweeted.
Krista Kiuru, one of the candidates to lead the Social Democrats, demanded that Purra apologise for her old writings and that the entire government “clear its racist reputation”.
“If the prime minister and ruling parties aren’t ready or able to do this, I think it’s necessary to measure confidence in the minister of finance no later than at the beginning of the [autumn] parliamentary session,” she said on Twitter.
Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, emphasised that zero tolerance for racism should not be limited to zero tolerance for violence, but also for racist remarks and writings.
“The ruling parties have failed to demonstrate what they mean when they say that everyone in the government has to commit to respecting equality and non-discrimination. This can’t go on,” she wrote.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT