Defence Minister launches attack on parliament’s expert advisers

During election season politicians often say outrageous things to get media attention, but Jussi Niinistö went further than most.

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File picture of parliament chamber, September 2018 / Credit: News Now Finland

Finland’s Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö (Blue) has launched an extraordinary attack on outside experts who are advising Members of Parliament on constitutional matters.

Writing in his website today, with a blog post headlined ‘Parliament needs to become more proactive’, Niinistö questioned the impartiality of Professors Juha Lavapuro and Martin Scheinin, who are giving their expert opinions about whether proposed legislation on intelligence and security reform is in line with the Finnish constitution.

Parliament Speaker Paula Risikko (NCP) withdrew the civilian and military intelligence bills from parliament’s plenary session last week, just a few hours before they were due to be discussed.

She sent them back to committee, and asked the two experts for their views to ensure any amendments would be in compliance with Finland’s constitution.

Professors Scheinin and Lavapuro had written on social media that some of the proposals are “so weak that it gets an F” or ‘fail’ grade. Scheinin maintains Twitter accounts in Finnish, and in English.

Niinistö was clearly unhappy at the delay in the intelligence bills’ passage through parliament, lashing out at the professors, and seeming to blame them for the trouble the legislation is encountering.

Although the Speaker of Parliament has also expressed her frustration with finding out about problems with the legislation via Scheinin’s social media accounts, it was Jussi Niinistö who singled out Professor Scheinin in particular for some scathing comments.

“Enough is enough. The constitutional Taleban cover their own ideological goals by false pronouncements of expertise and seek to exert pressure over the democratically elected parliament through social media” Niinistö writes in his online post.

“Professor Martin Scheinin, playing a role as constitutional adviser, who is former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Finland which is also known as the Turku Academic Socialist Society, whose ideology was Marxism-Leninism”.

Scheinin has said in media interviews that in the past he may have been a Communist, but now he is a liberal, and his religion is human rights.