LONDON - Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Monday added his voice to those condemning Prince Harry for calling an Asian army colleague a “Paki” but said the royal’s apology was genuine and should be accepted.
The 24-year-old prince issued an apology after his remarks, captured on a video made in 2006, were published on the News of the World website. He said the comments were made without any racist malice intended.
“I think Prince Harry knows these comments were unacceptable,” Brown told GMTV, saying the sincerity of the apology could not be doubted.
“I think the British people are good enough to give someone who has actually been a role model for young people and has done well fighting for our country, gone into very difficult situations with bravery, I think they will give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Harry is set to face an Army inquiry and Brown said the prince would be meeting his commanding officer soon to discuss the comments.
“The Army is going to investigate it and hopefully he will be given the appropriate penalty,” Keith Vaz, chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs committee, told BBC radio.
“What is important is does it reveal a wider culture within the army where words of this kind are acceptable. Is this an explanation as to why we have so few ethnic minority people prepared to join institutions like the army?”
In some of the footage on the homemade video, Harry — third in line to the throne — is behind the camera and can he heard making a mock commentary.
“Anyone else here ... ah, our little Paki friend ... Ahmed,” Harry says as he zooms onto the face of Asian officer cadet Ahmed Raza Khan while waiting at an airport to fly to Cyprus.
Harry was also shown telling another officer cadet wearing a camouflage veil during a night maneuver in Cyprus, “You look like a raghead” — an offensive term for an Arab.
Publication of the video has already led to criticism from some religious groups as well as Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
Khan’s father Muhammad Yaqoob Khan Abassi said the remarks were “a disgraceful insult.”
“When I saw the video I was very, very hurt,” he told the Daily Mail.
“That word he used is a hate word and should never be used against any Pakistani.”
A spokesman for Harry said the prince understood how offensive his language toward his comrade was.
“However, on this occasion three years ago, Prince Harry used the term without any malice and as a nickname about a highly popular member of his platoon,” the spokesman said.
The recording was made a year after Harry was pilloried for wearing a Nazi uniform at a costume party, a gaffe that sparked an international outcry.
Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato