Mind your language

It seems that the right wing tabloids have found themselves a new hero, a brave “patriot” upholding British values in the manner of the infamous metric martyrs.

This time our hero is “patriotic postmaster” Deva Kumarasiri, who banned people who were unable to speak English from his Sneinton Boulevard post office in Nottingham.

Mr Kumarasiri, 40, introduced a ban on non-English speakers after claiming they ‘annoyed’ other customers by causing delays and made it difficult for him to do his job.

‘I told people to learn some English or come back with an interpreter,’ he said.

He said he banned only five people and most of the community had supported him. But members of the local mosque are said to have started a petition against him.

According to another report

His bold stand against nonintegration has sent a shudder of political correctness down whatever spine the post office has these days, and infuriated some local do-gooders who accused him of inciting division among the community.

Now I don’t doubt that it can be frustrating for Mr Kumarasiri to deal with customers who don’t speak English and also for his other customers who experience delays as a result. I also would agree that people who move to a foreign country should make an effort to learn the language, it is in their interest and that of the rest of us. But it is not Mr Kumarasiri’s place to be the arbiter of such things, he is there to provide a service to his customers, a service which for many people is a fairly essential one. By refusing to serve certain people he is not only doing a disservice to the community but also his employer who owns the shop and will no doubt see his profits suffer and to the post office itself which expects its postmasters top provide the service it is paying them for. This is nothing to do with political correctness, nor are those who complain “do-gooders”.

Anyway, Mr Kumarasiri has now been moved to another branch where he is not likely to encounter such problems (ie in a mainly white area) and so hopefully hat is the end of the matter. In fact I don’t actually have any great animosity towards him, I think he is wrong on this issue but he is not wicked or bigoted. What concerns me more is the way he is held up as a great patriotic hero by the right wing tabloids. It is not hard to see why this story appeals to them – it gives them the chance to indulge in a bit of immigrant bashing while at the same time deflecting accusations of bigotry by pointing out that the guy they are defending is an immigrant himself. But do immigrants really need to go to these lengths before they get the approval of the Daily Mail?

Barclays documents online

The Guardian may have lost in its attempt to lift the gagging order won by Barclays Bank preventing the publication of documents detailing its tax avoidence strategy, but the documents have now been published at Wikileaks. The reasons why these documents are significant can be seen here and it is estimated that the various scams have cost taxpayers over £1bn.

Sunny at Liberal Conspiracy is co-ordinating an attemt to get as many bloggers as possible to link to the documents, so if you want to see them click here.

An open letter to Barack Obama

Over at Liberal Conspiracy, Conor Foley has posted the following letter from Orzala Ashraf Nemat, an Afghan friend. I would recommend to anyone that they read the full text.

I witnessed a historical moment in Washington when I first learnt of Obama’s victory. I joined the crowed of victorious young and old on the streets of America’s capital that night, somehow with confusing feelings. I say confused because I felt so proud to be in America when it happened, but I was unsure whether I should also be happy with what he would do in Afghanistan. I had just – that same day – seen the shocking pictures of women and children injured by a US coalition-forces bombardment in Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province.

Would Obama be able to stop such atrocities? Would he be able to fight the war against terrorism with the social and economic means to oppose the military means?

These were the questions in my mind which caused my confusion and made me doubt whether or not to celebrate the moment. I joined the crowd because I saw, for the first time in the history of this land, that an African-American was elected as president; I did so because I had heard him speaking over the past three months about the working class, the middle class and I saw that he was their voice. Such words sounded very unfamiliar to me in the context of a capitalist country, so I thought at least that he is not trying to ‘rescue’ the rich, but that rather he was there also to help the poor and so on. So I joined the crowed. I saw him speaking: “If there is any one out there who still doubts that everything is possible, today is my answer. For those who want to tear this world up, we will defeat you. For those who are looking for peace and security, we will support you…”

Click here to read the letter in full