Page last updated at 11:40 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Postmaster's foreign language ban

A Nottingham postmaster has said he will refuse to serve people in his post office if they cannot speak English.

Deva Kumarasiri, who moved to England from Sri Lanka 18 years ago, runs the Sneinton Boulevard Post Office.

Mr Kumarasiri said he could not serve people if he did not understand what they were asking for.

In a statement, Post Office Counters Ltd said its "branches were open to all customers" and "steps would be taken" to ensure this at the Sneinton store.

Mr Kumarasiri said he could not serve people if he did not understand them

Mr Kumarasiri said he had turned away about six customers after he said they wasted his time and infuriated other customers because they could not understand English.

"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.

"I am part of a service but how can I serve them if I don't understand what they are asking for?"

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

"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.

"That is what I ask everyone else to do - respect the country where you are working and living."

Mr Kumarasiri said his idea was popular in the local community.

This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with basic communication.
Mike Clarke, Bideford, Devon

'Stereotypical view'

Ina Norgate, 49, from Sneinton, said: "I agree with him. It's a bit ignorant to come here and not speak the language. If you went to France you would have to learn French."

But Mohammed Ahmed, 22, also from the area, disagreed.

"This is a multicultural society and this is not right really," he said.

"If they come here to work, it's their right to stay here even if they speak their own language. Some people can't speak English but they can learn the language once they come here."

But Afzal Sadif from the Nottingham Racial Equality Council said Mr Kumarasiri's stance was "unacceptable".

"This is a public service, the Post Office is there for everybody and we seriously have to look at the stereotypical view he's coming across with.

"In the long run, I believe, if we're living in Britain, over the course of the years, you have to speak English to get by but you can't force it upon people."

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