Talking to Nepalnews, Rai, who recently visited different parts of the country and met Gurkha veterans and their families, said it is so sad to learn that GAESO is collecting up to Rs sixty thousand from each Gurkha veteran in the name of helping them to settle in the UK.
“We strongly object to such practice of GAESO led by Mr Gurung,” said Rai, who is a program director of the United British Gurkha Employees Association, Nepal (UBGEAN), and is living in Reading, UK for the last couple of years. “We have also warned Joanna and Peter Carroll about the true intention of Mr Gurung and not to endorse any malpractices of GAESO leadership,” he added.
A Liberal Democrat leader from Folkestone and Hythe constituency of the UK, Peter Carroll is involved in the Gurkha Justice campaign since 2003 and is currently touring different parts of Nepal along with Joanna Lumley. GAESO is coordinating their visit and organising public reception ceremonies in their honour. The team has already met senior Nepali officials including President Dr Ram Varan Yadav and Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Mr Rai’s accusations have come amid media reports that GAESO has raised tens of millions of rupees from Gurkha veterans in the name of launching legal battles against the British government. NEPAL weekly magazine, published by the Kantipur Publications, reported Sunday that in its latest statement, GAESO has shown raising Rs 163.2 million and spending Rs 157.69 million since 1991. Some GAESO officials have filed a petition at the District Administration Office, Lalitpur, demanding investigation into alleged corruption within the GAESO, the news report said.
In a statement issued on 18 April 2009, GAESO lawyer Gopal Siwakoti ‘Chintan,’ who has been involved in the Gurkha Justice Campaign for the last one decade, alleged that Mr Padam Bahadur Gurung had raised more than Rs 150 million from Gurkha veterans in the name of fighting for their residential visa status in the UK. He also claimed that GAESO had raised money from Gurkha veterans to fight legal battle though GAESO had received more than 100,000 pounds from the Legal Aid Fund set up by the British government.
Mr Gurung has, however, dismissed such allegations against him as being ‘politically motivated.’ He said Rs 60,000 per head that GAESO was collecting from Gurkha veterans was ‘voluntary, not compulsory.’
As the Gurkha campaign, supported by celebrities like Joanna Lumley, British MPs, mainstream media and general public intensified, British government announced in May this year that all ex-British Gurkhas, who had served at least for four years in the British Army, will be allowed to settle in the UK along with their dependants.
It is estimated that up to 36,000 British Gurkha veterans would benefit from the British government’s decision. But, Gyan Raj Rai of UBGEAN said the actual number of Gurkhas leaving Nepal for good and settling in the UK could be much less. “Many Gurkhas are already in their old age and don’t have enough money to start a new life in the UK. Moreover, their pension is so low they can’t afford themselves and their dependants even if they move to UK. That’s why we have been pressing for equal pension and benefits as well as compensation to all Gurkha veterans,” said Rai. nepalnews.com