Finland's finance minister expresses remorse over racist online posts

Riikka Purra

Finland's Finance Minister Riikka Purra (Finns) has issued an apology over online comments posted around 15 years ago which have recently come to light and which have been revealed as racist in tone, the BBC reports.

Describing the posts, not made on social media – only in its infancy in 2008 – but on a party-mate's blog, as "stupid," Purra said she was sorry for the harm and resentment the statements, which included implied violence, had caused.

The comments had been made on a party colleague's blog in 2008 under a profile using her first name, "Riikka," but which have been identified by the Finnish media as having been authored by Purra.

One of these, from September of that year, boasted that "if they gave me a gun, there'd be bodies on a commuter train, you'll see," in the context of a group of young people of immigrant origin on said train, the BBC says.

Other posts referred to "Turkish monkeys," used the Finnish equivalent of the "N-word," and referenced immigration while Purra was on a conference trip to Barcelona.

Purra, who is also both Finns Party leader and Finland's deputy prime minister, initially neither confirmed nor denied that she had been the author of the comments, later calling them "stupid" and "absurd," and that "I would not write anything like that" at this point in her political career – Purra had not entered politics at the time the posts were made, she said.

I do not accept any kind of violence, racism or discrimination," Purra added.

The timing of the incident is less than ideal for the new coalition government, which replaced that of the internationally highly popular Sanna Marin, coming as it does just days before an official visit to Helsinki from U.S. President Joe Biden, which take place Thursday.

The four-party coalition headed up by Petteri Orpo (NCP) has pledged to tighten the rules on immigration, mainly as they relate to citizenship and residency.

Orpo made clear on social media there was "zero tolerance for racism," adding each of the government's ministers were committed to working against racism both in Finland and overseas.

For her own part, Purra tweeted that: "I'm not a perfect person, I've made mistakes," going on to co-sign a government statement to the effect that the entire cabinet is committed to equality and non-discrimination.

Leaders of the other coalition parties also called Purro's actions, however long ago, "unacceptable," however long ago they may have been made – and called for her to publicly renounce racism and intolerance, even if it had not been Purro who posted the comments.

Former prime minister Sanna Marin , who has kept a low profile since stepping down three weeks ago, took to Twitter on Tuesday to say that "the government must directly and unequivocally renounce racism, hate speech and violence. Every person is valuable and human dignity is indivisible. Everyone has the right to live in safety, regardless of their background," Yle reports on its English-language page.

Meanwhile, President Sauli Niinisto, in Vilnius for the NATO summit, also suggested it would be wise for the new government to "take a clear stance of zero tolerance of racism."

The Finns Party secured high-profile cabinet posts in the new conservative coalition headed by Petteri Orpo.

The incident is not the first concerning the Finns Party to have emerged in the three weeks it has been in office, the BBC reports.

Purra's party-mate Vilhelm Junnila was forced to resign as economy minister after references he made to Adolf Hitler at a far-right event in 2019 surfaced.

He had also made disparaging references to abortions in Africa.

Mari Rantanen, interior minister and also of the Finns Party, last week made statements distancing herself from conspiracy theories in the wake of media reports alleging she believed ethnic Finns were intentionally being replaced in Finland by members of other ethnicities, the BBC says.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: BBC, Yle

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