Reactions to Sunday’s Helsingin Sanomat editorial
The Social Democrat parliament member Jacob Söderman has said that yesterday’s Helsingin Sanomat (HS) editorial is a warning that things are going very wrong for Swedish-speakers’ rights.
HS wrote yesterday that Swedish-speaking Finns’ concerns over their diminishing rights were justified. See previous blog entry for more details.
Söderman named the Centre party as the biggest villain behind recent decisions that have effectively reduced the ability to receive services in Swedish. Municipalities / Local Government Minister Mari Kiviniemi (Centre) received particular criticism for her attempt to ignore the concerns of both Parliament’s Consitutional Committee and the Chancellor of Justice with regard to assigning bilingual Karleby (Kokkola) to the unilingual Oulu state administrative district instead of the strongly bilingual Vasa. Both the Constitutional Committee and Chancellor of Justice has ordered that Kiviniemi arrange a report that compares the two options with regard to the linguistic consequences of such a move. Kiviniemi has tried to instead order a report that would only investigate the linguistic provisions that Oulu would be capable of providing.
The Swedish People’s Party (SFP) parliament member Ulla-Maj Wideroos has claimed in the light of HS’ editorial that “it is obvious that there is a hidden agenda concerning the Swedish language. The Centre party’s next step will be to adjust the parliamentary electoral districts to ensure that the influence of Swedish-speaking Finns is reduced.”
Wideroos also claims that the National Coaltion party (Kokoomus) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) bear some of the responsibility for the current language climate, “Centre receives the power that the other two main parties give them”.
Söderman (SDP) states that in his judgement the Centre party has closed its ears to the requirements of Swedish-speakers.
The chair of of the Swedish assembly of Finland, Folktinget, Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) also points to Centre, but also others, “Centre has displayed a spectacularly nonchalant attitude for Swedish in the matter of Karleby, but Kokoomus have also helped them. With regard to the police district reform, the minister responsible was from Kokoomus.”
Wideroos (SFP) regrets the fact that there are today so few, if any, strong advocates of bilingualism amongst Finnish-speaking politician. She mentions former prime minister Esko Aho (Centre), former prime minister and parliament speaker Paavo Lipponen (SDP), former president and Nobel peace prize winner Martti Ahtisaari (SDP) and former minister Olli-Pekka Heinonen (Kokoomus) as politicians previously active who understood the importance of bilingualism and acted to further it.
Wideroos welcomed the fact that HS has now acted in defence of bilingualism. “This is exactly what we need. Finally, the country’s largest newspaper has said precisely what we have thought for a long time. This is of great importance, this will certainly be read by prime minister Vanhanen (Centre), opposition leader Urpilainen (SDP) and finance minister and party leader Katainen (Kokoomus).
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) has denied that there is any reason for concern over Swedish-speakers’ rights. He told reporters from the Finnish News Agency FNB/STT that he had not had time to acquaint himself with the Helsingin Sanomat’s editorial but that “we are one people with two languages and both languages ought to be equal.”
“Ought” to be, Matti? Actually, I think you will find it is “must be”. Time to take out the law books and read the constitution.
For more on our prime minister’s difficulties in understanding reality, read this entry on the Jees Helsinki Jees blog: Vanhanen to Swedish-speaking minority: “Your grievance against the Finnish mainstream isn’t justified” « Jees Helsinki Jees