Use of mercenaries is evil and repellant

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 March, 1997, 12:00am

The story headlined, 'Slaughter in the Pacific' (The Review, South China Morning Post, March 8) describing the use of mercenaries in the Bougainville civil war was extremely disturbing.

It is shocking to realise that so-called modern governments are acting like Mafia bosses and are hiring professional killers to settle what are essentially political quarrels over land and resources.

It seems there are castoffs and retired soldiers from the 'special forces' of the UK, the US and South Africa who are tired of civilian life and long for the thrill of holding a gun and killing indigenous people struggling to preserve their way of life.

Why has the UN, with all its professed goals of reducing the threat of war, not acted to end the scandal of hired killers? Why are supposedly civilised countries still permitted to employ men of dubious backgrounds and low morality to do their dirty work? How can a nation be said to fight crime when it allows its citizens to hire themselves out to the highest bidder overseas? It is high time the UN set up a 'war crimes - mercenary abuses' panel to stop this repellant and evil practice. Any person who hires himself out to a mercenary force will be a priori suspected of a war crime offence and subjected to trial and possible punishment on return to his home country. Obviously, the UK will oppose such a move because it would forbid the hiring in Nepal of Gurkha recruits - a mercenary army which serves to reduce Britain's 'defence' costs - an army 'on the cheap' so to speak.

Since the UK is a member of the UN Security Council, it would naturally block any move by peace-loving nations to end the long-standing custom of employing mercenaries, but the future Labour government would be well advised to consider this desirable reform.

With the end of the Gurkhas' service in Hong Kong, the last remaining function they perform is upholding the Sultan of Brunei, the richest man in the world and protecting the oil resources in which Britain has interests.

We certainly don't expect to see Gurkhas facing down Catholic or Protestant protesters in Northern Ireland, despite the loud statements by British officialdom that they are the equals of any soldiers in the British Army. Lovers of tradition will cry that the mercenaries from Nepal have served well (and cheaply) for over 150 years. But we know that even beloved traditions like the Mafia and hired assassins in general should give way to social progress and a raising of international peace standards.

Phasing out the mercenary Gurkhas would enhance Britain's image as a peace-loving nation and might even induce young Britons to defend their nation rather than hiring Asians to do it.

J. GARNER Kowloon


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