Gurkhas set to sue MoD for racial discrimination

Former
Gurkha soldiers are to sue the Ministry of Defence for racial discrimination
after receiving lower pay and pensions than their British counterparts.

A
test case from 20 former Gurkhas aged between 35 and 83 is expected to be
lodged this week.

If
the Gurhkas are successful, more than 30,000 soldiers from the regiment may be
entitled to an estimated £2bn worth of compensation for backdated pay and
pension payments from the MoD.

The
Gurhkas have fought for the British for almost 200 years, but since 1947 Gurkha
pay and pensions have been linked to the Indian Army’s pay code, creating a
wide difference between their pay and that of British soldiers.

The
Gurkhas’ solicitor, Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, said the case is to
be funded by legal aid and is unlikely to be heard before the end of the year
or early 2003.

In
court the Gurkhas are to be represented by the Prime Minister’s wife Cherie
Booth QC’s law firm, Matrix.

Padam
Gurung, president of the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen Association, said between
50,000 and 60,000 Gurkhas have lost their lives while serving Britain and the
soldiers deserve the same pay and benefits as other UK regiments.

“All
we ask is not to be treated as inferior human beings and to suffer
discrimination,” he said.

Nearly
3,600 Gurhkas are serving currently and have recently taken part in British
operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.

An
Army spokeswoman would not comment on the details of the case because it has
not yet been lodged, but she said a pension paid at the UK level would be worth
far more in Nepal due to the country’s lower standard of living.

By Ben Willmott

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