Gurkha hunger strike ends in victory — MoD response to parliamentary petition indicates inflexibility of core position. UKNFS responds:

The UKNFS is delighted to provide this news article concerning the historic victory of the Gurkha Satyagraha, Gurkha veterans hunger strikers lead by Gurkha Satyagraha lead Mr Gyanraj Rai. Below: BBC South Asia Diaspora reporter Mrs Gaggan Sabherwal interviews one of the hunger strikers, Mrs Ghale (widow of a Gurkha):

On late afternoon of the 19th of August 2021, with the hunger strike into it’s 13th day, the news broke that the MoD had acceded to the Gurkha Satyagraha demand that after three years of inaction on the UK Government officials side, Government to Government (G2G: UK and Nepal) will be held this coming December, with a preparation meeting at the Embassy of Nepal (London) in September.

The socio-economic and wellbeing negative impacts and nature of the original, defective Gurkha settlement that the Gurkha Satyagraha hunger strike campaign supported by the UKNFS seeks to change: Mr Ram Rai (Gurkha Satyagraha Advisor) –  Mrs Gaggan Sabherwal (BBC News South Asia Diaspora Reporter) interview:

UKNFS CEO, Alan Mercel-Sanca interview by BBC News Presenter Shaun Ley in which the news of the hunger strikers victory is broken and the reasons for the hunger strike explained:

20th August 2021: MoD provides response to Parliamentary petition on Gurkha Pensions justice / resolution:

Within less than 24 hours of the hunger strike ending, MoD officials provided a crucial early indication of inflexibility in regard to the substantive issues at the heart of the Gurkha pensions dispute and the Department’s handling of same.

The UKNFS of course understands that going into any negotiation, especially on such major international and social affairs dispute, both sides will lay out their positions to give maximum leverage and minimal compromising in the talks themselves. However, in this case the statement contained some major elements of concern, with the conclusion being that there is still lack of grasp of how poorly the Department has handled the dispute with damage to the reputation of the government itself and the British name in the world.

Our organisation has a proud pedigree of providing support to the UK Nepali community on a range of integration support needs at frontline to national government agencies (NHS and DWP) levels — for example:

This including especially the recently formally disseminated UKNFS UK Nepali cultural & social heritage project resources, whose value can be appreciated by support dedications ranging from the Prime Minister of Nepal and community leads to the President of The Royal British Legion (Lt General James Bashall CB CBE) and the Head of the National League System of England FA:

We are therefore directly aware of the negative impacts of the status quo / original – current pensions settlement, and are very successfully active in providing solutions to our Nepali – Gurkha community and those such as the DWP, NHS and others, regarding those impacts.

Consequently, the UKNFS (which signed the petition) has this morning provided it’s response to the controversial content in the statement, to the Petitions Committee, and the to the Government and with copy to relevant parliamentary select committees. the Shadow Armed Forces minister and relevant MPS.

It is the UKNFS view, that on this occasion when the substantive talks on the dispute occur in December that there must be independent authoritative external to MoD (Civil Servants/officials), arms-length advisory & witnessing supportive mechanisms in place to assist both parties in credible, community confidence carrying solutions being reached and mutually agreed. 

Requests to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Veterans Minister in regard to maximising opportunities for fair, transparent, successful outcomes from the December talks:

  1. We believe Def Com (the Select Committee for Defence) and Womeq (Women & Equalities Select Committee) should be involved in liaison from start to conclusion of the December talks) and other UK Government departments (DWP and Communities and Local Government, especially) that have major interest in this area (because of challenges and negative impacts caused to them by the impacts of the current status quo original defective agreement).
  • We request that maximum transparency be provided in regard to the mechanisms used and the UK Government / MoD officials who will be leading the negotiations in December, and that these urgent matters should be agreed and initiated at the talks preparation meeting in September. It will be essential that the MoD officials involved have demonstrated comprehensive knowledge of the community in question at cultural, communication, and community profile levels, and that they all have a grasp of fundamental Equality Diversity Inclusion (EDI) at operational and strategic decision-making levels.
  • That the talks in December must start with BOTH fiscal/taxes and benefits impacts consideration overview, and also overview of the record of socio-economic and mental health impacts upon that section of the Nepali – Gurkha community (in both the UK and Nepal) that were excluded by the status quo settlement. Fundamental to the latter a recognition from HM Government that the later de-facto instituted a major division into a hitherto undivided given [Gurkha] Nepali community (BAME) and that this does involve moral and practical responsibilities to be discharged by HM Government.
  • That in regard to 2 above, that a major part of the mechanisms and process of the talks a dedicated MoD, Equality Diversity and Inclusion impact assessment be undertaken (NOT a financial impacts one only); this to comply with the Equality Act 2010 requirements.  We also request the MoD to publish in unredacted form all EDI Impact Assessments that have been made since 2013 in regard to the dispute