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Gurkhas fight betrayal'

PUBLISHED: 16:43 29 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:48 16 August 2010

British actress Joanna Lumley (L) joins Gurkha veterans and their supporters as they deliver petitions to 10 Downing Street in London, on November 20, 2008. Hundreds of Gurkha veterans held a rally outside Britain's Houses of Parliament Thursday and were due to hand in a petition at Downing Street urging a change in the law so they can settle here. Almost 250,000 people in the last six weeks have signed a petition saying all Gurkha veterans should be allowed to settle in Britain. It will be handed in to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street office after the rally. AFP PHOTO/Shaun Curry  (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)

British actress Joanna Lumley (L) joins Gurkha veterans and their supporters as they deliver petitions to 10 Downing Street in London, on November 20, 2008. Hundreds of Gurkha veterans held a rally outside Britain's Houses of Parliament Thursday and were due to hand in a petition at Downing Street urging a change in the law so they can settle here. Almost 250,000 people in the last six weeks have signed a petition saying all Gurkha veterans should be allowed to settle in Britain. It will be handed in to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street office after the rally. AFP PHOTO/Shaun Curry (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)

2008 AFP

WAR heroes have blasted the government for betraying the brave Gurkha veterans who fought alongside them. 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 f

Former Gurkha soldier Lachhiman Gurungi is pictured in central London, on October 13, 2008.  Former Gurkha soldiers from Nepal headed to the House of Lords Monday to support a bill which would cement their right to settle in Britain after a lengthy battle. The soldiers, alongside campaigners including actress Joanna Lumley, are fighting for a change in the law after Britain's High Court ruled in the Gurkhas' favour in a test case last month. AFP PHOTO/Ben Stansall (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

WAR heroes have blasted the government for 'betraying' the brave Gurkha veterans who fought alongside them.

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 means as few as 100 may win the right to stay here.

Stanley Wright, 75, of Sandhurst Road, Orpington, served in the Navy from 1949 to 56. He said: "They're being treated terribly, absolutely awfully. This is an injustice on the largest scale. They feel betrayed and rightly so.

"We are allowing everyone into this country at the moment but not, it seems, people who have fought and died for us."

Speaking exclusively to the Times former Gurkha soldier, Shrichandra Gurung, 46, told of his pride for the nations support but his dismay at the treatment by the government.

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 the government will change its minds sooner or later."

He added: "Honestly my point of view is that this is very unfair. The five bullet-point criteria the Government came up with are ridiculous.

"For example, one of the criteria is that you have to have served for 20 years. Well it is only possible to serve if 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 all over the world, including in 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.

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.

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 out of 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.

Mr Wright added: "For centuries they have loyally served us and been our trusted allies and friends and this is how we repay them. We are treating them like dirt."

Now the vice-president of the Royal British Legion in Orpington, Mr Wright said: "I was in the Navy and although I didn't serve with them directly, I am certain you can rely on a Gurkha in any battle.

"They are British to the core and they have served this country well. I can't understand it."

Over 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

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