Thursday, 7 May 2009
Posted by Sarah Pellew
For the past 200 years there has been a group of men from Nepal who have fought for the British Army.They are famed for their bravery and loyalty.They are called the Gurkhas.Recently they presented a petition to Parliament asking for the right to live in this country when they retire.Those who retired after 1997 are entitled to live here, but those who retired before this date have to jump through hoops to qualify.
They have to have served over 20 years in the army( privates are only allowed to serve 15 years).They have to have been badly injured or be able to prove that any illness suffered now dates back to an old wound.They have to have received a medal for bravery.These rules exclude a huge number of men.
The actress,Joanna Lumley, star of Absolutely Fabulous and the New Avengers,whose father served with the Gurkhas, has taken up their cause and is proving to be a worthy colleague of these incredible old soldiers.She has sent the government and its toadying cronies into a panic.She is unswervingly fighting for the Gurkhas rights and will not take no for an answer. Using her glamour and outstanding wit and intelligence she appears to be running circles around the politicians.Today she engineered a live press conference with the Minister concerned and left him squirming with uncomfortable embarrassment. He nodded glumly as she spoke for him, announcing that the government would not be refusing the requests of 5 elderly Gurkhas( sent refusal letters today), but would be looking favourably on them and would review the current policy, definitely by July. Woolas, the Minister,looked like a rabbit in the headlights of an oncoming tank.You could see his career flashing before him and I would love to have been a fly on the wall when Gordon Brown phones him tonight!!
When it comes down to it Joanna Lumley cannot fail to succeed.She has right on her side and is not afraid to use it.She makes me proud to be English as she is doing what we should all do in life - stand up and be counted, do the right thing not just the cheapest.I don't care how much it costs to let the Gurkhas live here.They were prepared to fight and die for our country and have done so for 200 years.The least we can do is give them a home here, if they want it, and not all of them do, when they retire.
If they can find billions of pounds to prop up banks and fight illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan then I would imagine they could find some money to allow the Gurkhas to live here.If they wanted to.The fact that the Government is doing everything it can to avoid a settlement is just one more reason why they should be voted out at the next General Election.They should be ashamed of themselves, whilst Joanna Lumley should be proud.