Actress Joanna Lumley lobbies for Gurkha ex-soldiers’ rights

October 13th, 2008 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 13 (IANS) Film and television actress Joanna Lumley joined veteran Gurkha soldiers Monday to lobby the British government to allow the ex-servicemen to live in Britain.Lumley, who was born in India and whose father was in the 6th Gurkha Rifles, is campaigning for the Gurkhas to be given the same rights as others who have fought for Britain.

The action comes after a court last month criticised the home ministry policy banning Gurkhas who retired or left the service before 1997 from living in Britain.

Upholding a challenge by Gurkhas, the High Court ruled the policy was unlawful and in need of urgent review. It is said to affect more than 2,000 Gurkha ex-servicemen.

Legislative initiatives are being taken in both houses of the British parliament to try and end the anomaly. While the House of Lords will see a third reading of a bill aimed at changing the law, a similar bill has been introduced in the lower house as well.

“The fact that the bill has enjoyed cross-party support in the Lords is a magnificent and hopeful sign,” Lumley said.

“I will also be asking MPs to sign up to our online petition. The government has a historic opportunity to put right this terrible wrong. Letting this bill stand will honour our debt.”

Philanthropist Sir Jack Hayward, who has donated 20,000 pounds to the Gurkha Justice campaign, said: “I am delighted to give something to the Gurkhas to help, in some small way, repay the debt I and my country owe to them. I flew them into war in Burma in 1944. I know from first-hand their loyalty, their gallantry, their unswerving devotion to the British Army. We owe them a debt that we can never fully repay.”

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