London, Sept.17 : British actress Joanna Lumley has said that the government's treatment of retired Gurkha soldiers and their families is a scandal, and yesterday, she joined a protest at London's High Court in support of their quest for citizenship and medical welfare rights.
The protest was held ahead of a two-day hearing to decide if 2,000 of the Nepalese war veterans will be allowed to live in Britain. The TV and movie beauty stood alongside 86-year-old Victoria Cross hero Tul Bahadur Pun, who served in the Second World War with her late ather, James, and saved his life by single-handedly storming Japanese machine-gun positions.
The UK grants automatic residence only to those Gurkhas who retired after 1997, The Telegraph reports.
I am so happy to be able to lend my support to this cause. I want to see justice done. For nearly two centuries Gurkha soldiers have served the Crown, during which time they have established a reputation second to none as professional, brave and loyal soldiers. They have always remained true to their motto: Better to die than be a coward," she said.
Some 45,000 Gurkhas have died in wars to keep Britain free, and Gurkha soldiers have won 13 Victoria Crosses. Yet those who retired before 1997 must apply for permission to stay in this country and may be refused and deported if immigration officials decide they do not have "sufficient links" with this country.
Lumley said: "How much greater link do you need to this country than that you were prepared to sacrifice your life for it? This is a scandal. My father served alongside the Gurkhas for 30 years. I am a daughter of the regiment and have known the name Bahadur Pun since I was four. He was an absolute hero in my house." "We have discriminated against them dreadfully. It is a black blot on our proud Army. Like so many people in Britain, I am ashamed at how successive governments have failed these magnificent and loyal soldiers," she concluded.