The Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament of Finland has stopped handling of the Sámi Parliament Act, which is unlikely to proceed to a vote in a plenary session of Parliament. The intention of the legislative reform was to promote the realisation of the right of self-determination of the Sámi people and to also reform outdated voting practices, for instance.
The Sámi Parliament is disappointed with the decision, although this could be expected as handling was prolonged to the final moments of the electoral period. President Tuomas Aslak Juuso is especially surprised at the Constitutional Law Committee, which the Sámi Parliament hoped would be a non-political body. It should issue statements on bills to be considered in relation to how they adapt to the Constitution of Finland and to international conventions on human rights.
– I wonder how the outcome can be like this. Even the main messages of experts on fundamental rights during hearings and in statements clearly supported the bill in terms of its factual content. Unfortunately it appears that in this matter, political games took control of the Constitutional Law Committee instead of principles that steer its activity. It is regrettable that some Members of Parliament resorted to objecting to the bill for ostensible reasons, President Juuso states.
The Constitutional Law Committee voted to stop handling the bill by referring to schedule-related reasons, which baffles President Juuso.
– In this case, the Constitutional Law Committee has acted in accordance with timetables it has set, and thus it has also failed when it ran out of time. Apparently the Committee has not progressed early enough from a general level to an internal discussion, President Juuso remarks.
President Juuso is grateful to Prime Minister Sanna Marin and to Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson for bringing the matter to this point. He pleads with them and the entire Government of Finland that if they still have an opportunity to bring the Act to a vote, they should seize on it.
– This bill is a strong compromise, prepared over several years that provides a fair response to Finnish obligations. The Executive Board of the Sámi Parliament tried to find solutions for promoting the bill up to the last minute. Still, it is evident that handling of the matter will not become any easier in the future if handling of this bill now ends here, President Juuso comments.
Efforts to reform the Sámi Parliament Act have continued for more than a decade
Sanna Marin’s Government is the third government in succession that has failed to reform the Sámi Parliament Act. A report by the Timonen committee, which prepared the legislative reform, was published in May 2021 but the Act did not proceed to consideration by committees in Parliament until the last possible moments in November 2022. Pressures for reforming the Sámi Parliament Act have also been increased by decisions made by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN Human Rights Committee, obligating the government of Finland to reform the Act so it would respect the right of self-determination of the Sámi people as an indigenous people.
The bill, which was founded on several years of work, was supported by the Plenum of the Sámi Parliament as well as by the Skolt Sámi siida council, the Sámi Parliamentary Council, and the Saami Council. It also had the support of numerous expert parties and human rights actors, and the petition organised in favour of the bill garnered 23,000 signatories.
– On behalf of the Sámi Parliament, I wish to extend a warm thank-you to all the Sámi and Finnish private persons who persistently did important work for the legislative reform, President Juuso notes.
Tuomas Aslak Juuso
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