Ahti Tolvanen: Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö’s announces legislative initiative to cleanse the ministry of foreign dual citizens

by , under Ahti Tolvanen

This brought me back to the days of my reckless youth when I arrived in Finland in the early 70s to study at university. At that time a foreign citizen was not allowed by law to hold any kind of “virka” i.e. permanent public job.  A foreign citizen was also not even allowed to marry a Finn.  There were also a host of  private sector and community jobs a foreigner could not hold like newspaper editor, city counselor, shop steward and board member in a company or association.

Little did I know at the time that I would eventually take on all of these ” illegal” activites.


Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö is a member of an anti-immigration party (formerly Perussuomalaiset, today Blue Reform*) with ties to far-right groups. Read the full story (in Finnish) here.

This was not the Finland, the fierce defender of freedom, I expected to find. This was a closed society with apparently a huge case of xenophobia with one administrative rule after another to exclude and kick out foreigners. There was actually no appeal process for foreigners who got deportation notices. Just leave or else. It was worse than Trump’s USA in that everyone seemed resigned to it and it had gone on for decades. In some ways it was like North Korea in that everybody seemed happy with the very closed system. The exception was that almost everybody had enough to eat.

I turned into a kind of career rule basher or a kind of a reluctant corporate guerrilla. It probably started when I fell in love with a Finnish woman. I actually had to chase down the Minister of Justice to get special government permission to marry. After that success I decided to stay and make it stick. That was in the vows too.

I realized I needed help to change some things to make life less insufferable so I invited some other foreigners to meet and discuss common problems. I was pleased many showed up. So did a couple of members of the secret police. And more than once. They just sat in the back of the room and said little.

We decided we wanted to form a foreigners association. We soon learned this was illegal. We drafted our articles and sent them to the government anyway. They sent them back a couple of times with extensive revisions. After a couple of years the prime minister of the country and his whole cabinet put our application on the agenda. It was approved. Kekkonen was rumored to have caved at last.

Once we got the association approved we began to visit parliament.

I decided I would run for city council in Helsinki. First, we had to get the law changed and that took a lot of visits to parliament. When we finally got the law changed I was too tired to campaign much although I had Enrique Tessieri as an excellent campaign manager. I did not get elected and that was the end of my political career. Later friend Umayya Abu-Hanna agreed to be a candidate for our group and she became the first foreigner on Helsinki City Council.

Then I decided to put out a newspaper and be the editor. The paper was immediately prohibited by the Helsinki Magistrate. Law student Martin Scheinin helped us organize a demonstration to demand the right to have demonstrations (also illegal)  while I handed out copies of my illegal newspaper. Instead of getting arrested we got two laws changed. Martin went on to be special UN legal advisor.

While working at Helsinki University I somehow got elected as the shop steward in my institute.  The administrative director of the university, Timo Esko, said that as my employer they could not recognize me because it was illegal for me to be in that post. On Esko’s advice I became associate shop steward instead, which was permitted. The problem was that a shop steward could not be fired under the union agreement but an associate could. I continued to do my job by bringing up various grievances, including the first ever expulsion of a foreign student, and got fired.

I decided to do something else and decided to become a consultant and eventually start my own company.

Esko  moved on to eventually become head of Finland’s High Court and he was unavailable for more good advice. They eventually allowed foreigners to become shop stewards and my friend Daryl Taylor was the first of them at Tekeri. My campaign manager Enrique Tessieri became editor of Migrant Tales.

I became director of my own company which had become legal by then. I guess they saw us coming.

Now back to Jussi Niinistö and his effort to role the clock back with his proposal to cleanse dual citizens from the defence ministry.  This seems to suggest that all they need to do to get rid of spies at the ministry is to do a document check and kick out the personnel with foreign passports.

Now I don’t have much experience in espionage but from reading spy novels I recall that one of the first things spies do is get rid of their foreign passports and get local ones. In fact I think this is true to the extent that persons with foreign passports are the persons least likely to be spies because they are such obvious suspects. A corollary problem that comes to mind is that the defense ministry may need spies of their own in conflict zones abroad. These spies would often need foreign passports which would have to be forged. Wouldn’t it be much more effective to use spies who have real foreign passports?

It quickly becomes obvious, even if you are only a Le Carre´ or Ian Fleming enthusiast, that cleansing people with foreign and dual passports to increase security is not really smart enough as a spy catching strategy to catch real spies. You need to be smarter. A lot smarter.  You need to understand a person`s life story and his motives for working there.

This is so obvious that Niinistö must know as much. One suspects he has some other motive for this legislative initiative. A political one.

In addition to the news on his legislative initiative Niinistö is also mentioned in another story in today’s Helsingin Sanomat. His name is mentioned at the end of a long article of right wing extremism in Finland on page B4. Towards the end of the historical account Niinistö is mentioned as a leading writer and pamphleteer for the Kansallinen kullttuuri rintama which was active until the mid nineties and predecessor of the neo-Nazi  Pohjoismainen vastarintaliike, recently banned by the courts.

It seems Jussi Niinistö has found a new sphere of influence for disseminating his brand of Finnish white supremacy. The fact that this is the ministry that controls the army and the use of force  by the state is certainly a cause for concern for anyone who does not share his dark ideas.

* The Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13 into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity. One is more open about it while the other is more diplomatic.

A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.

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