Not Talking My Language


Zeenat Moosa : Why Deva Kumarasiri doesn’t see the whole picture

Sri-Lankan born postmaster Deva Kumarasiri caused a storm last month after revealing how he would refuse to serve non-English talking customers at his Nottingham Post Office. Zeenat Moosa reveals her thoughts on the subject…


A POSTMASTER has lost his job after he refused to serve customers who could not speak English. Sri Lankan-born Deva Kumarasiri introduced the ban two weeks ago at the sub post office where he worked in Sneinton Boulevard, a part of inner city Nottingham.

Almost immediately after his ‘racist’ ban came to light, Mr. Kumarasiri was transferred to a different Post office branch in Nottingham. Managers of the post office said they had no choice but to move him

because the post office service “was for everybody”. They admitted they were concerned about the impact on trade following complaints about the ban from local residents and reports that some immigrant minorities had pledged to boycott the branch.

Kumarasiri has also been thrown out of the Liberal Democrat party, which he represented as a councillor for Gedling, a Liberal Democrat minister suggesting his opinions meant he could no longer be a member of the party. Kumarasiri’s policy had also been criticized by the Racial Equality Council and by the Labour MP for Nottingham East, John Heppell.

Mr. Kumarasiri was openly vocal about his actions saying that “The owner of the shop in Sneinton Boulevard is very, very angry, and the local Muslims began a petition to get rid of me. Because of that my head office has transferred me to another post office.” Despite the public anger and disapproval he insisted he would continue the ban at his new post office branch in Netherfield, a predominantly white area of Nottingham.

Mr. Kumarasiri claimed non-English speakers made it difficult for him to do his job properly. He told the BBC he had turned away about six customers who had wasted his time and annoyed other customers by not being able to understand English. Yet it is obvious that Mr. Kumarasiri has failed to see the wider picture. Although his argument about a failure for ethnic minorities to integrate within British society is a notable and important one, it is nonetheless apparent that   Mr. Kumarasiri is out of sync with the fact that Britain prides itself on being multi cultural, multi racial, multi lingual and multi cultural. It has perhaps not dawned on Mr. Kumarasiri that over an astounding three hundred different languages other than English are spoken in the capital city of London alone.

And perhaps Mr. Kumarasiri is unaware of the implementation of the government’s new strategy which will allow all school children from the age of seven to be able to learn a modern foreign language by 2010. The most frequently taught languages will be French, German, Spanish and Italian allowing for all children, regardless of race, culture or creed, to develop varied language skills.

Moreover, there are a number of schools in Birmingham who follow a Bilingual Teaching Scheme where primary school children are taught in both English and their mother tongue, again emphasizing the multi lingual make up of many UK cities.

English is spoken by over ninety percent of the population of the United Kingdom, compared to only a mere ten percent in Mr. Kumarasiri home land- Sri Lanka. Even Mr. Kumarasiri can see this. He is said to be feeling let down due to the 5% of the ethnic minorities who made this fuss. Mr. Kumarasiri obviously feels strongly about integration in Britain. Yet the ironic fact is that his very action does the total opposite for social inclusion. Indeed, perhaps Mr. Kumarasiri would like to look at other ways to help encourage ethnic minorities to embrace integration. Completely shunning five percent of society and making them feel like social outcasts is not the answer to an integrated yet culturally diverse society!


Zeenat Moosa is a Guest Writer for The Asian Today


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here