Gurkha Welfare Inquiry session 4th April 2014 1030-1200
In this session the APPG heard from Major Tikendra Dewan, the Chairman of the British Gurkha Welfare Society and the President of the Greater Rushmoor Nepali Community. He spent the first part of the session responding to the evidence submitted by the MoD to the inquiry. He went on to outline various aspects of the MoD evidence which he disputed as inaccurate and highlighted that the UK Government tend to look down upon Gurkha veterans and the Nepalese Government.
Major Dewan explained that the Gurkha Welfare Trust needs to focus its resources less on administration and instead on providing aid to Gurkhas in Nepal. He highlighted that when the Royal Gurkha Rifles were created this should have been accompanied by a new Tripartite Agreement.
Having responded to the MoD evidence Major Dewan outlined his own personal account of service in the Brigade of Gurkhas. He stated that he was hurt by the treatment he received regarding welfare issues. Whilst based in Hong Kong he had inferior living quarters and school access for his family compared to British officers. He highlighted that being only able to see one’s family for 2/3 years out of 15 years service was not fair. He believes this exemplifies the institutional discrimination which Gurkha soldiers faced. He referred to a conversation he had with the former Veteran’s Minister regarding the Gurkhas wherein he was told that they were viewed as a colonial army.
Major Dewan explained that Gurkha soldiers had everything dictated to them and were given no real options in regards their savings. He personally lost 18 years of service contributions following his transfer across to the AFPS 75. He explained that it isn’t an issue of money necessarily for the Gurkhas but one of equality and fairness.
He was asked by Damian Collins MP to provide details of the costs incurred during their campaign which he agreed to supply the inquiry with.
Other witnesses expressed their personal experiences highlighting various grievances.
Jackie Doyleprice explained that the inquiry hopes to have a parliamentary debate now on the issue which will be followed by their report which will go to the Prime Minister.
Gurkha Welfare Inquiry session 4th April 2014 1600-1900
In this session the APPG heard from Gyanraj Rai, who is a retired Warrant Officer and the spokesperson of the United British Gurkhas Ex-Servicemen’s Association (UBGEA). Mr Rai staged a Fast-Until-Death hunger strike opposite the 10 Downing Street from 7 – 21 November. He explained in the oral session that the Gurkhas campaign is about achieving equal rights for Gurkhas as exist for their British counterparts. He outlined various grievances which he and other veterans faced whilst serving in the Brigade of Gurkhas (BG) including poor accommodation, insufficient salaries, restrictive rules on bringing bought items into Nepal and a punitive approach to discipline resulting in many veterans being made redundant with no pension.
He went on the describe the poverty which many veterans have faced on returning to Nepal with no pension or a very poor pension, as many veterans have limited job opportunities and poor access to medical facilities. Widows, he explained, are often ostracised in Nepal after their husband dies leaving them extremely vulnerable. Many veterans become security guards or may have to become mercenaries to survive due to the insufficient support which the pension provides.
Gyanraj Rai highlighted that the Gurkhas have a strong sense of character and read form a WW2 British Army officer’s account of their self-sacrifice.
He criticised the MoD for countering the Gurkhas throughout their campaign for equality making it extremely difficult for their voice to be heard due to financial and personal hardship. He explained that the Gurkha veterans don’t want to remain in the UK but rather to return to Nepal so if the pension were to be increased this would enable them to do so and relieve the burden they place on the welfare system.
He stated that the UK Government should provide the funds for all veteran medical bills or else provide better facilities in Nepal.
Various members of the APPG highlighted the need to balance the principles which the Gurkhas are fighting for with the costs attached which would still need to be worked out. Their report will balance these considerations.
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