My friend Pete blogged last week about how he had written a letter to the UK Foreign Secretary over the treatment of the Gurkhas. (As it was a private post I will not reveal Pete’s surname or URL.) And, sadly, this is typical of the British Government in its dealings with any group that could claim to be British—but happen to be of colour.
While the above is a sweeping statement, and I realize there are plenty of whites who have served in Gurkha regiments, it’s been my observation that the United Kingdom has not been fair when it comes to those who have sworn allegiance to the country but do not hail from an Anglo–Saxon or European race.
The Gurkhas had sworn to defend HM’s interests over the years, and interestingly, there seems to be a great deal of support from the British public over their plight. Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats has said that if Gurkhas were prepared to die for Britain, then ‘surely they deserve to live here,’ while the Labour Government seems fearful of the idea that there would be a wave of new immigrants ﬂooding the land.
Somehow I think the British public would be more accommodating of those who served in the name of Her Majesty than Europeans who are there by virtue of the Common Market.
I support the Gurkhas, wholeheartedly. I was raised on stories on their bravery and loyalty. And they have put more on the line in defence of the United Kingdom than many who consider themselves British.
I’ve seen all these excuses from the British Government before. Before Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese in 1997, the UK made changes to its law to prevent Hong Kong-born British subjects settling there. The Tories’ excuse at the time was the fear of a wave of immigrants—six million at the time—heading to the UK. It would have been a more ﬁtting excuse from someone like Sir John ‘Go Home Johnny Foreigner’ Goldsmith.
As British Columbia and various Australian states found out because of the UK’s xenophobic policies, many Hong Kong émigrés took their hefty bank accounts to more accommodating homes. Canada and Australia beneﬁted from the Hong Kong Chinese immigrants’ work ethic, while Britain missed out. We didn’t exactly create a class of bludgers or some massive drain on their social services. To engage in apartheid by creating a class of ‘British Overseas Nationals’ for us is hypocritical at best.
Labour’s cries of ‘change’ during its 1997 General Election campaign can best be interpreted, 12 years on, as ‘more of the same,’ and the Prime Minister’s belief that his party has made advances shows how out of touch he is with public opinion. It was unsurprising, then, that yesterday the PM was defeated, with 27 of his own party voting with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to allow retired Gurkhas to settle in Britain—which shows that in some cases, Parliament does indeed reﬂect the will of the people.
As I have blogged before, Britain has not gone out of its way to protect our interests and tends to ignore many of us, and in this respect I have a great deal of empathy for the Gurkhas. While I have never put my life on the line in the way they have, I also have sworn an allegiance to HM Queen Elizabeth II, and I expect that to be reciprocated when there are matters that the British Government, by law, must assist me with. All too often the Foreign and Commonwealth Ofﬁce does not understand its own obligations.
I see sons and daughters of British citizens who have never set foot in the UK, who have no desire to be connected to the UK except to gain a passport for travel purposes, become admitted as British nationals themselves, and the only commonality they have with the majority of Britons is the colour of their skin.
Meanwhile, many of us born under the Union Jack and considered ourselves British by birth, and who consider ourselves loyal subjects of HM the Queen, are cast aside, and one of the only things that seems to unite us is that we don’t have white skin.
The vote yesterday was a statement by the British people to say: apartheid doesn’t work. One would think that Labour, after being accused of racism by the Conservatives back in 1983 (anyone remember ‘Labour thinks he’s black. Tories say he’s British’?), would tread carefully in the wake of Tony Blair’s ‘change’ rhetoric 12 years ago. This is perhaps why I am always sceptical of anyone who talks about ‘change’ in an election campaign.
In Britain, we have seen no change and no greater understanding from HM Government on the simplest rules of law. All this does is set up the Tories for their own cry of ‘change’ come the next General Election—and the British public might, this time, fully remember where Labour fell considerably short.
The Gurkhas have scored a symbolic victory, as have everyday British people, but the fact that Labour even moved to exclude Gurkhas from what most right-minded people would consider their due shows both arrogance and ignorance to the greatest degree. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:34
Good entry, Jack. Our government and past governments have not behaved fairly to people who we have a responsibility too. I think most people here are probably not aware of the extent of this problem and would support the rights of British subjects like yourself, if they knew.Post a Comment
# posted by Pete: 5/02/2009 02:29:00 PM
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