Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Senedd Member for Mid & West Wales has criticised what she described as the “disgraceful treatment” of Gurkha veterans by the Conservatives and Downing Street.
Dodds comments come as a number of Gurkhas entered their 5th day of hunger strikes (AUGUST 11) in front of Downing Street over the government’s refusal to grant them pensions equal to that of the British soldiers they fought alongside.
The Gurkhas, an elite group of Nepalese troops who have fought for the UK during both the World Wars and major conflicts since won their right to citizenship in 2009 after a high-profile campaign by the actress Joanna Lumley. However, those who fought for the UK before 1997 are still being paid pensions on Indian Army Rates, rather than British Army Rates like their counterparts. These rates are a fraction in comparison, not being designed for a high-income country like the UK where most Gurkha veterans now reside. Around 25,000 Gurkhas who retired before 1997 are thought to have been denied a full pension.
Commenting Jane Dodds said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that the government have allowed this issue to boil over to the point where we have former Gurkha soldiers going on hunger strike. These are people who have put their lives on the line for the safety of our country time and time again. It is an absolute betrayal of British values.
“We have a long history of association with the Gurkhas here in Powys, with their regiment being based in Brecon for the past 45-years. I’m sure many residents will, like me, find this news extremely distressing and an insult to those who have served. We are meant to be a nation of compassion, if we can’t even find that for those who put their lives on the line for us, then what does that say about the current position of our country and government?
“I am calling on our Conservative Members of Parliament to push the government and their colleagues to grant the Gurkhas the level of pensions they rightfully deserve, which is equal to that of their British compatriots.”