Hasan Suroor

LONDON: First anyone heard of Deva Kumarasiri was three days ago when he hit the headlines for refusing to serve customers who did not speak English. He was hailed by many who said he was right to insist that immigrants settled in Britain should speak English if they wished to be served.

But barely had the Sri-Lankan born Mr. Kumarasiri started to enjoy his new celebrity status (even the BBC went to interview him) when the axe fell: on Saturday he was sacked by his employers who said that they were losing customers because of him. Besides, it was racist to turn away a customer because he or she did not know English.

Forty-year-old Mr. Kumarasiri, who worked in a small post-office in Nottingham, was told to pack up and leave after he was criticised by the local Racial Equality Council and the MP for Nottingham East, John Heppell who called his attitude “a little bit strange”. “What do you with tourists? If I was abroad and if someone refused to sell me a stamp because my French or German was not good enough, I think I would have every right to be offended and I suspect people in this country would be offended by what this man was doing.”

Mr. Kumarasiri, who came to Britain 18 years ago, said he was only asking people to make the same efforts he had.

“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,” he told the BBC.