Search

Gurkhas: We feel betrayed

PUBLISHED: 12:39 30 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:38 25 August 2010

Indian-born British actress Joanna Lumley (R) speaks to the media outside the Houses of Parliament in central London, on April 24, 2009. The British government refused to offer full settlement rights to all former Gurkhas Friday despite a High Court ruling last year, in a move slammed by the Nepalese ex-soldiers and their supporters. Britain will only give 4,300 ex-Gurkhas settlement rights, the Home Office said, falling short of campaigners' demands that they be given to all Nepalese ex-soldiers who retired before 1997. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal  (Photo credit should read Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian-born British actress Joanna Lumley (R) speaks to the media outside the Houses of Parliament in central London, on April 24, 2009. The British government refused to offer full settlement rights to all former Gurkhas Friday despite a High Court ruling last year, in a move slammed by the Nepalese ex-soldiers and their supporters. Britain will only give 4,300 ex-Gurkhas settlement rights, the Home Office said, falling short of campaigners' demands that they be given to all Nepalese ex-soldiers who retired before 1997. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal (Photo credit should read Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

2009 AFP

A BRAVE Gurkha who has been given the right to residency in the UK has slammed the government for 'betraying' his loyal comrades.

PRIDE: Shrichandra Gurung was full of praise for the nation’s support. PICTURE BY MARTIN SAWDEN

A BRAVE Gurkha who has been given the right to residency in the UK has slammed the government for 'betraying' his loyal comrades.

On Wednesday MPs were due to debate and have the chance to vote against a controversial decision that limits the amount of Gurkhas who can apply for residency.

The shock vote was agreed due to a furious reaction against tough guidelines released on Friday, that mean as few as 100 may win the right to stay here.

Former Gurkha soldier, Shrichandra Gurung, 46, told of his pride for the nation's support but his dismay at the government's treatment. The married father-of-one, of Goldfinch Road, West Thamesmead, served in the Bramcote 36th regiment as a Staff Sergeant for 20 years and retired in January 2001.

He said: "I am lucky that I am unaffected because I retired after 1997, but I know a lot of retired Gurkhas who this is going to affect, and they are sad at the government's decision, they consider it unlawful, a betrayal. I feel very sad for those Gurkhas who cannot stay, they are no different to me and I can stay. They gave us much, how can they be denied.

"Life is very hard back in Nepal. Once they get residency they will have the chance of a good life here and they can look after their family well and their children will have the chance to do well.

"It means a lot to us that the majority of the British population is supporting us. Hopefully it will change their minds sooner or later."

He added: "My point of view is that this is very unfair. The five bullet-point criteria that the government came up with is ridiculous.

"For example, one of the criteria is that you have to have served for 20 years. Well it is only possible to serve for 20 years if you are a Warrant Officer or a superior position - and Warrant Officer is quite a high-ranking position."

Mr Gurung has served the British army in countries all over the world, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Cyprus and France. He now works in security at Lehman Brothers bank in Canary Wharf in central London. Proudly, he told how his wife Meena was a broadcaster in Brunei and how his daughter Preeti is set to start at Kings College London this year.

A High Court ruling last September gave Gurkhas the right to residency but strict government criteria means that in reality the new rules may help less than 100 men.

Rules created in 2004 allowed Gurkhas with four years' service to settle in the UK but did not apply to Gurkhas discharged before July 1, 1997.

This was because prior to 1997, Gurkhas were based in Hong Kong rather than Shorncliffe, their present base. The guidelines announced on Friday state Gurkhas and their families can settle if they have: three years continuous residence in the UK, close family in the UK, a level 1-3 bravery award including the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross, 20 years' service, or a chronic or long-term condition caused or aggravated by service.

World War Two heroes have also attacked the government's stance on the issue claiming they have 'betrayed' brave Gurkha veterans who valiantly fought alongside them.

Richard Brooker, 76, of the Veterans Club of Bexley in Danson Road, Bexleyheath, said: "They should be here, no doubt about it. They should carry on fighting the government - that's what they do - they're fighters.

"They are the best. They have won more awards than any other brigade and fought bravely in every war we have entered in the last 200 years."

Mr Brooker, who served from 1952 to 1955, added: "It is sheer stupidity on the government's part. They feel betrayed, having earned their right to stay by defending our country and its people."

Albert Bennett, 94, a WWII Burma Star Veteran, from Dartford, has vowed to fight for every single Gurkha until they have the right to settle in the UK.

He added: "It's terrible. We are all so disappointed with this latest result. I just can't understand the mentality of the government. It's absolutely mindless. Our government have betrayed the most valiant fighters who have for years defended our Queen and country."

More than 50,000 Nepalese Gurkhas, who are renowned for their ferocity and courage, have died in service to the UK and 13 have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

There are currently around 3,500 serving Gurkhas and more than 200,000 fought for the Allies during the two world wars.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas defended the government's decision, saying: "This guidance honours the service, commitment and gallantry of those who served with the Gurkhas brigade.

"Where there are strong reasons, there has been scope for Gurkhas who retired prior to July 1997 to apply to settle in the UK. In fact, because of rules brought in by the government, we have already welcomed around 6,000 Gurkhas and family members to Britain.

"Now, another 10,000 Gurkhas and family members will be able to benefit from our revised guidance."

elizabeth.thornton@archant.co.uk

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Bexley Times

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists