Jan 12, 2009

World - Britain;Prince Harry apologises over racist remarks

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: In the New Year’s first major PR disaster for the royal family, Prince Harry was on Sunday forced to apologise for using racist language to describe an Asian colleague and making offensive remarks about gays.

The apology came after the News of the World, a London tabloid with a history of scraps with the palace, dug up a three-year-old private video in which the Prince, then an officer cadet at Sandhurst Military Academy, referred to a fellow Pakistani officer as “Paki,” made fun of gays and mocked his grandmother, the Queen, in a “pretend” telephone call.

The newspaper said the video was made at an airport in 2006 as the Prince and his colleagues prepared to take a flight to Cyprus. Wielding his camcorder, he zooms in on a Pakistani colleague and says:”Ah, our little Paki friend....Ahmed.” In another clip, he says to a colleague in an Asian headscarf that he looked like a “raghead,” and refers to gays as “queer.”

Even before the News of the World hit the stands, the royal family issued an apology on behalf of the 24-year-old gaffe-prone Prince to pre-empt the damage .

A statement from Clarence House, official residence of his father Prince Charles, said: “Prince Harry fully understands how offensive this term can be, and is extremely sorry for any offence his words might cause.”

The Ministry of Defence condemned the Prince’s behaviour saying that “this sort of language is not acceptable in modern army.”

A senior Cabinet Minister, John Denham, called Prince’s remarks as “offensive” while the Equality and Human Rights Commission demanded an inquiry. Royal aides sought to play down the episode saying that the Prince used the term “Paki” without any malice, and there was no intention to insult.

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