Gurkhas grateful for overwhelming support

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 January, 1997, 12:00am

We refer to the report headlined, 'Gurkhas accused of 'unforgivable' claims' (South China Morning Post, December 21), where a former commanding officer claimed that the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation (GAESO) was a 'fringe group'. We take issue with this claim.

GAESO represents tens of thousands of retired Gurkhas who have voiced unequivocal support for any move to end discrimination against Gurkhas in the British Army. There have been many press reports both in and outside Nepal that show this to be the case.

The four-point plea presented to the British Government by GAESO was officially and publicly endorsed by all major political parties in Nepal.

Indeed, when Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba visited Britain from November 10 to 13 last year, he consulted with GAESO to prepare his case to British Prime Minister John Major. As a result, for the first time in 183 years, the question of equality was officially raised as a national, Nepalese issue. Our mass rallies throughout Nepal, and last month in Hong Kong, have drawn thousands of supporters.

As for Lieutenant-Colonel Nigel Collett's fears that the Gurkha's demands may harm relations between Britain and Nepal, he should rest assured that the Gurkha's appeal for equal treatment has already been welcomed by a large section of the British public. The public outrage regarding the most recent issue, the prohibition against family visitation rights for Gurkha soldiers, has been widely publicised in the British press.

It is understandable that the British Army would react so defensively regarding the issue of the disappearance of the Gurkha Appeal Fund; this is not the first time that the integrity of the Army has come into question. The Canadian Government ceased contributions to the fund nearly 10 years ago due to suspicious irregularities in disbursement of the funds.

It is indeed unfortunate that the obsolete views of Colonel Collett, which are an ugly reminder of a colonial attitude long put to rest by the vast majority of Britons, are given any consideration at all by a newspaper of the stature of the Post.

The policy regarding equal treatment is a matter involving the British Government and not the British Army or any of its former officers.

We would like to thank your readership for the overwhelming support we have received in raising the issue of the plight of the Gurkhas.

Lance Corporal PADAM BAHADUR GURUNG (Ret.) President Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation ERIC J. URBANI Executive Director Nepal Forward Foundation