Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS) and Minister of Education Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) listened as Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) presented the government statement on promoting equality and non-discrimination to Members of Parliament on Wednesday. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)


MEMBERS of Parliament on Wednesday got the opportunity to discuss the equality and non-discrimination statement the government drafted in response to revelations about the past online comments of Minister of Finance Riikka Purra and Minister of Economic Affairs Wille Rydman.

While the government is unlikely to collapse over the statement, the debate served as a vivid reminder of how the differently issue is understood within the Finns Party.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) began the debate by underscoring that the work to weed out racism must continue, pointing to discriminatory attitudes and structures in, for example, education and labour markets. The government, he assured, treats the issue very seriously and is committed to taking long-term action to tackle it.

“Ministers, representatives and other political actors have an especially big responsibility for not only creating the climate for societal debate, but also respecting each other,” he was quoted saying in the session hall of the Parliament House on Wednesday by Helsingin Sanomat.

Jani Mäkelä, the chairperson of the Finns Party Parliamentary Group, similarly assured that the government stands by its statement but promptly turned his attention to discrimination against boys and men, immigrant gangs harassing the native-born population and the woke culture that has labelled anything from board games to ice cream as racist.

“It must be possible to talk about societal problems and even difficult issues without constantly worrying about who decides to get offended and whom you’ll have to ask for forgiveness tomorrow,” he said.

Mäkelä last summer described the government statement on equality and non-discrimination as an attempt to solve a problem that actually does not exist.

While the contents of the statement drew hardly any criticism, it was remarks such as this – and especially their steady stream during the summer – that prompted opposition parties to question whether the government is genuinely committed to the statement.

Oras Tynkkynen (Greens) said the Finns Party is mocking the statement and wondered why it is so hard for the group to accept the statement without any “ifs and buts”, reported YLE.

Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, stated that she values the prime minister’s committed to combating discrimination and racism but questioned his assurances that the policies of the government would not change Finland. The government programme, she argues, sends the message that foreigners are not welcome to the country by raising tuition fees for foreign students, adopting a three-month re-employment requirement for foreign workers and separating the social security benefits of non-permanent residents.

“How can you say Finland won’t change?” she asked according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Neither Purra nor Rydman felt it necessary to address the parliament. Purra made only a short comment after her silence had caught the attention of Annika Saarikko, the chairperson of the Centre: “I’ve made my apology, and we’ve all rejected racism.”

The Social Democratic Party on Wednesday announced a motion of no confidence against the government, the Left Alliance against Rydman and the Green League against Purra.

The votes of confidence are scheduled for Friday. With the Centre intent on siding with the four ruling parties, the National Coalition, Finns Party, Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats, the motions are not expected to succeed.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT