Foreign Minister admits to sending text messages to dancer
Previous SMS message controversy nearly three years ago
Finland Minister for Foreign Affairs Ilkka Kanerva (Nat. Coalition Party) confirmed on Monday that he has sent text messages to Johanna Tukiainen, a member of the erotic dance group Dolls, and to her sister.
"Messages have been sent, but not in the sense of any deep drama of human relationships", Kanerva said in Brussels at a press conference held after a European Union foreign ministers' meeting.
"Yes, but I wouldn't make any diagnosis", Kanerva said in Brussels, when asked if he knew Johanna Tukiainen.
On Friday, when approached by a reporter working for the Swedish language service of YLE, he appeared to deny sending the messages, as claimed in a story in the gossip magazine Hymy. According to the magazine, Kanerva had sent about 200 intimate text messages to Tukiainen from his work telephone.
On Monday, Kanerva denied the denial, saying that when he answered "no" to the journalist, he was simply indicating that he did not want to comment on the reports.
Kanerva said that his political credibility is a matter that is up to the voters.
National Coalition Party chairman Jyrki Katainen did not want to comment on the matter on Monday.
On Sunday he said in a television interview with the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) that he hopes that Kanerva would use more consideration, if the report is true. Katainen added that all politicians have an influence on what kind of an image is projected from politics.
On Monday Kanerva saw nothing wrong in his having sent private SMS messages from his taxpayer-funded mobile telephone.
MP Helena Virkkunen, chairwoman of the women's organisation of the National Coalition Party, said that the uproar over the text messages "does not show good consideration" on the part of Foreign Minister Kanerva.
"Politics is evaluated as a whole. This does not give a good impression", Virkkunen noted. She said that she expects that the matter will be discussed in the National Coalition Party's Parliamentary group.
Under the Finnish constitution, government ministers must be "honest Finnish citizens known to be skillful".
Chancellor of Justice Jaakko Jonkka, whose job it is to monitor the legality of actions of government ministers, told Helsingin Sanomat on Monday that the threshold to questioning Kanerva's suitability to hold his position would not have been crossed even if he would have held on to his Friday statement, in which he denied sending any messages.
Jonkka says that questioning a minister's suitability on the basis of his or her private life would require that an actual crime would have taken place.
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) has also come under suspicion of having lied about matters concerning his private life when he said that he had met his former girlfriend Susan Ruusunen (formerly Kuronen) in an Ikea furniture store. Ruusunen says that they had met on the Internet.
Jonkka did not want to comment on the private lives of either of the ministers.
Hymy editor-in-chief Esko Tulusto says that the magazine is considering whether or not to publish the content of Kanerva's text messages.
"Of course we have the messages. We would not have published the story if we had not been certain that they are genuine", Tulusto insisted on Monday.
"We did not publish them right away because text messages have been seen as having the equivalent of mail confidentiality. We are pondering whether or not to publish the messages in the next issue."
Dancer Johanna Tukiainen arrived in Helsinki from a holiday in Dubai in the early hours of Tuesday. She was met at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport by a crowd of journalists.
She told the press that she was surprised at the extent of the brouhaha sparked by the messages.
She said that she initially saved the messages as evidence, but that she is now thinking about possibly publishing them. All she would say about the content of the messages was that they contain "personal material".
"Men are men. I think that Kanerva has good taste in women in other respects as well."
This is not the first time that text messages sent by Kanerva have raised controversy. In the spring of 2005 Marika Fingerroos, a woman who had worked as a nude model, revealed that she had received text messages from Kanerva, who was Deputy Speaker of Parliament at the time.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Ilkka Kanerva upbraided for inappropriate SMS messages (16.6.2005)
National Coalition Party leader perplexed by Kanerva SMS message uproar (10.3.2008)