By Tim Saunders on
Last September, Look to the Stars brought you a story about Joanna Lumley's support of hundreds of elderly Nepalese Gurkhas seeking to retire in Britain. The actress is now slamming the British government for failing to honor a court ruling allowing the veterans the right to remain in the country.
The Gurkhas are part of a famous regiment of Nepalese soldiers that has fought for Britain since 1815, most recently in Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia. Although they have fought and died for Britain, a court ruling means those who retired before 1997 have no automatic right to live in Britain. All other foreign soldiers in the British Army can settle in Britain after four years’ service anywhere in the world. The Gurkhas won a ruling at the High Court in London in October that allowed up to 2,000 of them to stay in Britain, but the U.K. government has so far failed to honour the ruling, and Lumley has launched a new legal campaign to see justice done.
“It is disgraceful that our democratic Government has refused to listen to the will of the people,” she said on Tuesday. “The ruling last year was clear and the way that successive governments have treated Gurkhas who retired before 1997 is truly offensive and a stain on our national character. These are men who have served in the British Army, sometimes for 20 years and more, and some have won our country’s highest honours for valour and service.”
The sentiments echo her statements last year, in which she said: “My father served alongside the Gurkhas for 30 years. I am a daughter of the regiment. He would be absolutely overwhelmed with shame and fury that we have behaved this way to the Gurkhas, our most loyal and constant friends. I am never ashamed to be British, but I am ashamed of the behavior of the British legal system towards these brave men. We have discriminated against them dreadfully. It is a stain on our relationship.”
Earlier this month, Lumley also launched the Tibet Film Festival in Tibet, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising against China’s rule and 50 years in exile for many Tibetans including the Dalai Lama.
She said she hoped the film festival would “help keep Tibet in the front of people’s minds,” and that it would remind the world of pledges of action made prior to last year’s Olympic Games in China.
“We made all these what seem to be now hollow insistences before the Games were to take place in Beijing that we wanted to see improvement in human rights. There was no improvement but we still went. I wish our country was doing something. We have so many Tibet supporters here and within the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but somehow once we get to senior administration it’s back to nothing at all and appeasement of the Chinese.”
The Dalai Lama also sent a message of peace to the festival opening: “Film is a highly effective means of providing information and education. It is my sincere hope that the films on show at this festival will enable viewers to broaden their understanding and appreciation of Tibetan culture and the problems currently facing the Tibetan people, and that such an understanding may yet grow into support for our just cause.”
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