Customers must speak English, says postmaster from Sri Lanka

March 20th, 2009 - 12:57 am ICT by IANS  

London, March 19 (DPA) A British postmaster born in Sri Lanka has caused a stir by declaring that he will refuse to serve customers in his shop if they do not speak English.
Deva Kumarasiri, who came to Britain from Sri Lanka 18 years ago, runs the Sneinton Boulevard Post Office in Nottingham, central Britain.

“If somebody stands up and says ‘Sorry, I can’t serve you if you can’t speak English’, then they’ll think twice,” he said.

The 40-year-old said he felt he was only asking people to make the same efforts as he had done.

“I was born and raised in a different country, my language was different, my religion was different. But when I came to England I obeyed the British way of life, I got into the British way of life,” he told the BBC.

His remarks have caused a stir as they could be interpreted as “discrimination” - or worse - inflame anti-foreigner sentiment, local people said in interviews.

While some agreed with him, others said no-one should be forced to learn English.

Kumarasiri’s stance was described as “unacceptable” by Nottingham’s Racial Equality Council, which said the postmaster was taking a “stereotypical view”.

Post Office Counters, the organisation which runs the post offices and the shops attached to them said that its branches were “open to all customers” and steps would be taken to ensure this happened at Kumarasiri’s store.

Kumarasiri has told half a dozen of his customers that they must go and learn English. “They have all come back with a smile, and one even brought a dictionary,” he said Thursday.

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