Gurkha 'sadness' over British job cuts

2012-01-18 14:16
Kathmandu - Gurkha veterans in Nepal spoke of their sadness and sense of injustice Wednesday at Britain's decision to axe 400 jobs in the brigade as part of a wave of defence cuts.

The Ministry of Defence has announced the redundancies will be among 2 900 British army jobs going along with 1 000 air force and 300 Royal Navy positions as Britain's coalition government takes further steps to slash a record deficit.

"When they needed troops for battle, the UK government recruited hundreds and thousands of Gurkhas for their service but they have decided to cut numbers in the name of reducing defence expenditure," said Gajendra Isbo, of the Kathmandu-based Gurkha Army Ex-Serviceman's Organisation.

"British Gurkhas deserve reward for their bravery. The decision to reduce the numbers is unfortunate and a great injustice."

The steep cuts to the Gurkha brigade, which has been part of the British army for nearly two centuries, follow a series of setbacks in recent years including a battle over pensions.

"We are saddened by this decision," Isbo added. "Downsizing is just like a punishment. We hope the British government corrects the decision."

Ablout 3 500 Gurkhas, recruited from Nepal, currently serve in the British army, including in Afghanistan, and they have their own brigade.

About 200 000 Gurkhas fought for Britain in World War I and World War II and more than 45,000 have died in British uniform. They have a reputation for ferocity and bravery and are known for their distinctive curved Kukri knives.

"The Brigade of Gurkhas has been growing in size since modernisation in 2007 which also allowed them to serve for 22 years instead of 15," a statement from the British Embassy in Kathmandu said.

"This reduction in numbers has therefore been anticipated for some time."

Defence minister Philip Hammond said Tuesday the government had "no choice" but to axe the posts as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) after the previous Labour government overspent on defence.

He said the Gurkha cuts would only affect those with six years' service or more.

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