“The government must unequivocally distance itself from racism,” emphasizes Anna-Maja Henriksson, Swedish People’s Party chairperson and minister of education. National Coalition Party Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, declares, “As a government, we maintain a policy of zero tolerance for racism.”
Upon hearing the above-mentioned statements, one should not be surprised why some are in a state of doubt and shock, especially when people are told that they should forget and forgive the racist statements of some MPs who were appointed as ministers in June.
For example, Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Vilhelm Junnila resigned in disgrace after about 10 days as trade minister but was recently elected as the first vice chairperson of the PS parliamentary group.
Junnila’s successor, Wille Rydman, assumed the role of trade minister but faced a scandal due to his racist, anti-Semitic, and dehumanizing private messages, which were made public by Helsingin Sanomat. These messages also exposed Rydman’s disturbing Nazi views and ideologies. Surprisingly, the minister did not offer a public apology for the offensive messages.
The series of scandals involving the PS this summer prompts us to question whether these so-called self-proclaimed saviors of Finland understand the term “racism.” It’s important to note that Finland is bound by various international agreements aimed at addressing the social ill:
· Finland has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which places significant obligations on the government to dismantle racially discriminatory structures in society. Additionally, freedom from discrimination is enshrined in several UN treaties and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
· The Durban Declaration and Program of Action, adopted in the World Conference against Racism in 2001, commit states to anti-racist efforts and addressing the consequences of colonialism.
· Discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin is prohibited under EU law. The European Commission has adopted the EU Anti-Racism Action Plan 2020-2025, urging member states to intensify their efforts against racism.
· In the Council of Europe, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has been entrusted with combating racism in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, its additional protocols, and related case law.
Similarly, non-discrimination is a fundamental principle of Finnish law:
· Under the Finnish Non-Discrimination Act, discrimination based on origin, nationality, or language is strictly prohibited. Compliance with this act is overseen by the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal, and occupational safety and health authorities.
· Finland has adopted an action plan for combating racism and promoting harmonious relations between different population groups for the period 2021-2023, encompassing eight objectives across various government departments.
Notably, the government’s soon-to-be-published anti-discrimination action plan is somewhat ironic as it exhibited a degree of discrimination by excluding certain anti-racism associations like Rasmus. The program’s title, “A Government Statement to Parliament on Promoting Equality and Non-Discrimination in Finnish Society,” has raised eyebrows among some observers, suggesting it may be an attempt to save face.
This present situation reflects the lack of understanding and harm caused by racism among certain members of the PS party despite the fact that information on the social ill is widely and freely available on the Internet. The PS appears unwilling to even acknowledge the term, let alone engage in meaningful dialogue about its eradication.
As PS MP Jani Mäkelä, the chairman of the parliamentary group, pointed out, “They take this ‘term,’ arbitrarily define its content, and then judge others based on their own interpretation of it.” This perspective prompts us to question whether labeling an entire group based on ethnicity or origin and ethnicity is acceptable, especially when dealing with groups of people rather than individuals.
In light of these developments, we must look to the wise for guidance and higher moral standards.
Let’s now discuss how the government treats racism:
· When any of us or our party members engage in questionable behavior or make statements that raise concerns, they tend to dismiss them as mere humor or innocent, repeated jokes. Unfortunately, this often includes racist hate speech. Regrettably, the government neither fully grasps the term “racism” nor is open to learning about it because we claim to uphold a policy of “zero tolerance for racism.”
· Our focus is not on global events or issues because we are not adequately prepared to address them. Instead, our primary concern lies in implementing stringent border controls to prevent the entry of individuals we consider undesirable, particularly immigrants and asylum seekers who are not of European or white descent.
· In the face of criticism or failures, the government tends to blame opposition parties, such as the left-leaning ones, the Greens, Social Democratic Party (SDP), labor unions, and the media, often labeling them as dark forces conspiring against us. We argue that they did not respect democracy and the mandate that the PS received was from over 600,000 voters.
As the pressure from the opposition continues to mount and the Center Party evaluates its vacillating options in the opposition, the government’s plans to tackle racism looks more like a quote by Malcolm X: “Racism is like a Cadillac, they bring out a new model every year.”