A Chennai-born representative of the Queen has resigned after making critical comments about British Pakistanis.
Paul Chandrasekharan Sabapathy, CBE, was one of the monarch’s “Lord Lieutenants” with oversight for the West Midlands – home to a large British Pakistani community.
According to the Guardian, Mr Sabapathy sent an email in August after attending a Pakistan Independence Day event at the Pakistan consulate in Birmingham, in which he said that British Pakistanis should be taught “basic common courtesy and civility”.
He was apparently unhappy at the lack of respect shown him as the local representative of the Queen.
“Pakistanis are lovely people individually but there is a lot of work to do to teach them basic common courtesy and civility”, said the email which was leaked to the Guardian.
It adds: “They talk to themselves and do not engage with the wider community. They are living in the UK not Pakistan. Whilst being rightly proud of their Pakistani culture and heritage they need to explain better and engage more with their non-Pakistani brothers and sisters if they want their children to succeed as British Pakistani citizens.”
Mr Sabapathy was the first ever non-white Lord Lieutenant.
The Queen appoints Lord Lieutenants to each of Britain’s counties but it is a largely ceremonial position.
Sabapathy’s irritation reportedly stemmed from the fact that some members of the audience at the event were talking among themselves as he tried to make a speech – a common enough occurrence at most British Asian events.
Mr Sabapathy issued a statement late on Friday afternoon, saying he had decided to stand down after a number of local MP’s protested at his remarks.
He said: “I wish to apologise unreservedly and wholeheartedly for the offence I have caused to the Pakistani community and others, by the contents of my private email. I have today written to all those who received my original email to express my sincere sorrow and regret. I have asked for their forgiveness in the hope that my comments do not damage relationships between the many communities of the West Midlands.”
One local MP, Shabana Mahmood, whose family is from Pakistan, told the Guardian: “Clearly he should apologise, his comments are very offensive. If he had issues with the way the event was organised then the appropriate thing to have done would have been to take it up with the event organisers directly.”
The Labour MP Valerie Vaz meanwhile, said Mr Sabapathy’s “generalized remarks” showed that he was “out of touch”.
Others however, jumped to Mr Sabapathy’s defence.
Daviner Prasad, the Chief Secretary of the British Organization for People of Asian Origin, said: “Why should the lord lieutenant apologise? He was right in what he was saying. The Asian community, whether Sikh or Pakistani or Indian must learn. What he is doing is educating Asian people that they are in British society.
“They can’t behave as if they are still in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. They must not just expect to get food on a plate. They must accept what British society has on offer, for example, tolerance and respect. We need to show respect to the British monarchy. Why must people try to make a meal out of what he said?”
In his resignation statement, given to the Guardian, Mr Sabapathy wrote: “As an immigrant myself, coming to the UK 51 years ago not knowing anyone and the first non-white lord lieutenant ever, I have been conscious of my duty to engage with and support all communities in their endeavour and to ensure they are represented fairly and without discrimination.
“Those who know me will, I am sure, confirm I am a great advocate of the Muslim and Pakistani communities – in the same way that I support all of those in the region, no matter their colour, creed or beliefs. Collaboration and engagement are at the heart of all my work. There is not one iota of prejudice on my part and I am deeply sorry for the upset I have caused and I offer my sincere and heartfelt apologies.
“It has been a privilege to be the representative of Her Majesty the Queen and to serve the communities of the West Midlands for the last eight years.
Having given the matter deep consideration and in the light of my wife’s ill health I have decided to stand down as lord lieutenant of West Midlands to spend more time with my wife.”