Ex-Gurkhas seek expeditious talks from Nepal, UK governments to address their demands

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Feb 22, 2019-

Agitated ex-Gurkhas who have been demanding pay, pension and other facilities on par with other members of the British Army have submitted separate letters to the prime ministers of Nepal and the United Kingdom, urging them to expedite talks to address their grievances and demands as suggested by a joint technical team.

On February 18, the ex-Gurkhas submitted two separate letters to the foreign ministries of Nepal and the United Kingdom, demanding the implementation of a report prepared by a joint task force on behalf of the governments and agitating ex-Gurkhas.

Coinciding with the four-day visit of British Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mark Lancaster, they have called on both governments to implement the report expeditiously so that they would not have to raise the issue repeatedly.

A technical dialogue team was formed in March 2017 to provide a platform to explore options for a long-term sustainable solution that would address the grievances of Gurkha veterans. A report, the Final Joint Report, had been submitted in London to the Nepal Embassy and British government on March 22, 2018.

The formation of the technical teams to resolve the outstanding issues of the British Gurkhas was an initiation to make things right, the veterans said in the letters submitted to both the prime ministers. The submission of the Final Joint Report on March last year gave hope that discussions would take place to resolve the issues.

Read: Ex-Gurkhas warn of protests over unmet demands

The report has outlined that there is disparity on providing state pension, redundancy package, and medical support.

“The report has come in a right and positive spirit but we are wondering why both sides are not launching the dialogue process to implement the report as both governments have already taken ownership,” said Krishna Bahadur Rai, chairman of the Gurkha Satyagraha Committee on Thursday during an interaction with a select group of journalists. “So we urge both the governments to initiate a dialogue process in order to implement the report as early as possible.”

As per official records, hundreds of Nepali nationals who joined the British Army went missing, died or were wounded since the first World War in 1914. Even their families have been facing disparities in pay, pension and other facilities as per the British nationals.

“All ex-servicemen were waiting for a date, place and composition of the talk team with at least one ex-serviceman representative so that a genuine gesture could have been made. However we feel betrayed by both governments as talks were held in November 2018 without even consulting the main representatives of that technical team who are backed by all ex servicemen and the organizations,” the letter submitted to both the PMs stated.

More: Gurkha forum raises equal rights pitch

Lancaster, who is on a Nepal visit to meet with top government officials including President Bidya Devi Bhanadari, Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, Defence Minister Ishwor Pokhrel and Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali among others, is expected to explicitly discuss the issue of the ex-Gurkhas, the report submitted by the technical team and the way forward.

“Attempts have been made in the past to address our grievances in a piecemeal basis which we have rejected,” said Rai. “We want a solution based on the report submitted by the task force.”

In their letters to both the PMs, ex-Gurkhas have also voiced concern regarding the fractured approach that is being used to deal with the issue. “We have been informed that a tiny deal is being implemented. We do not accept such things as the solution. We fought for the British Government under their policy and directive and laid our lives alongside our British counterparts yet we are treated as second class personnel who do not matter. We sincerely hope that our grievances are addressed seriously, as we feel we deserve that,” they sated in the letter.

The ex-Gurkhas have now set a deadline for the government to complete the dialogue process by 18th March 2019. Otherwise, they will consider other options like sit-in protests and hunger strikes in the UK, as well as the termination of the Tripartite Agreement and the recruitment of Gurkhas. “The British Government should shoulder this blame as they have been inflexible,” they have warned in the letter.

Published: 22-02-2019 08:35

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