The Falklands And The Gurkhas (Satis Shroff)

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Commentary:  FALKLANDS AND THE GURKHA ISSUE (Satis Shroff)

Twenty nine years ago, the British and the Argentineans fought over the Falkland Islands and turned, the otherwise peaceful and serene South Atlantic into an inferno. The Malvinas were claimed by the Argentineans and the British. Nurse Nicci Pugh was a witness to the hostilities from a safe distance on board the hospital ship HMS Uganda. The conflict began on April 2,1982 after Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Britain’s PM Margaret Thatcher sent a task force which resulted in the death of 1,000 people, after which the Falklands (Malvinas) were liberated on June 14, 1982.

Much like Florence Nightingale, who left England on October 21,1854, and started caring for the wounded soldiers at Scutari, Turkey, on November 5,1854, and took a large group of women as nurses (38 women, including 18 Anglican and Roman Catholic sisters), Nicci Pugh was one of 40 nursing officers on board the hospital ship Uganda. Ms. Pugh’s job was x-ray units to provide modern hospital care facilities for the injured British Tommies, civilians and also possible Argentinean soldiers wounded in the conflict. In the ship were operating theatres, 120 beds, burn-units, labs, x-ray units, a blood bank, in addition to a helipad. The Uganda was anchored a mile south-west of San Carlos Water, where there was heavy fighting. With the knowledge that hospital ships had been sunk in previous wars through shelling or torpedoes, the ladies had to go through the angst of being bombed by the Argentinean aircraft which frequently made sorties over the Royal Navy armada.

The British staff on board the Uganda have gone on record as having treated 700 patients. Among the patients were also injured Argentinean soldiers. It might be mentioned that the ship HMS Sir Galahad was shit by enemy fire, whereby 120 patients were treated in the burns unit on board the Uganda. Some 500 surgical operations were performed. Most of the injuries were caused by gunshot, shrapnel and mortar. Amputations were also carried out due to the anti-personnel mines deployed and hidden by the Argentinean soldiers. Even the injured Argentinean soldiers were treated with the same respect and dignity. 

After the war, Ms. Pugh returned to her old job in Cornwall as an OP theatre nurse, but wasn’t able to talk about her experiences for years. That was her coping method. Life had to go on. But unlike the Lady with the Lamp, Nicci Pugh didn’t have to face medical ire, and works as a voluntary carer to help injured servicemen to re-visit the Malvinas to pay their respects to their own fallen comrades, and visit the killing fields of the Falklands. But for the Gurkhas who have fought for Britain since the times of Queen Victoria till Queen Elizabeth II since 200 years, there’s no noteworthy memorial in Britain. Are the Gurkhas merely guest-workers or ‘cannon fodder’ only? Britain laments that there’s no memorial for the courageous Lancaster Bomber Command  which lost 55,573 out of 125,000 pilots during their deadly missions to bombard German towns and industrial complexes, collateral damage notwithstanding.

But no one speaks of the courage and sacrifice of the sturdy, dedicated, loyal Gurkhas from Nepal, who laid their lives for the Glory of Great Britain, and are still doing the same for the United Kingdom. After World War I and World War II, the Gurkhas were ignominiously booked a passage to Nepal via India. Even today, instead of integration, education and service in the UK for the extraordinary service to Britain and the Queen of England since generations. They are not even tolerated when their service, i.e. unfair contract, with the Arbeitsvermittlungsagency MoD is over. The MoD is treating the Gurkhas  similarly as the German government did with the so-called ‘guest workers’ from Turkey, Italy, Spain and Portugal during the fifties, only to realise that they hadn’t invited guest workers but human beings, who had families, dreams, hopes of a better quality of life, the same education as their own children. Under Angela Merkel there’s a new integration model for migrants which is showing a positive trend and in accordance with the European Union’s ideas of a better world.

The Gurkhas must be given the same status as their British counterparts and comrade-in-arms, the same buying power and dignity in the United Kingdom, and the UK government would do well to put and end to the discrimination that has been meted out to the Gurkhas and their families. They must be accepted and welcomed as old and new migrants and the UK’s loyal, historical allies, instead of being discriminated on flimsy grounds. If the Gurkhas have to go to the European court it is indeed a shame for Brown’s government, which has been trying to save precious sterling pounds on the integration of the Gurkhas and has been diverting the common man’s money for other purposes.  

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An e-mail from Argentina

Hello Satis,

Thanks for your message. Nice to meet you. Well you’re from Freiburg, I have a mp3 file of an audience recording from a Roxette concert that took place in Freiburg. Very funny…Regarding the Falkland war, we all Argentineans feel some kind ofimpotence, Imagine if one day some people broke into your house and take you away from your own house. We cannot do anything and I don’t think Argentina will get back the islands. UK is a very strong country. Well, that’s the position of Argentina. UK claims that they were always of their own. I don’t really care who’s the owner. The main point is thatthe war was pointless and it was not about the islands. There weremany purposes besides these events, the war was just a disguise.

In 1982, the government in Argentina was in charge of the military, peopledidn’t have the right to express what they felt, everything was banned.People was really tired. so the military government NEEDED something to give an incentive to the Argentineans. Something that proves they had the power. They made us believe that we could get back the islands that once were occupied by the British. That was the main purpose of the war.UK hadn’t any interest on these islands, but it was like a war trophy forthem.

Obviously, it was like a fight between 2 kids, a 5 years old boy against a 15 years old boy. As we usually say “the bad events show the best and the worst from people”. And the war was not an exception.The TV always reported that we were about to win the war, they were always lying in order to calm down us. The media was controlled, including the radio, some songs were prohibited or edited. A certain censorship. During the war, the songs sung in English were not allowed to be played. And the soldiers were 18 years old teenagers, who were recruited by the law, they didn’t know what war was really all about, they didn’t have the right to decide what to do with their lives. It was an order and they must obey “the call of the country,” so they were sent to the war.

In 1982 I was just a 7 years old boy, I didn’t know what was happeningto my country. In all schools, there was a campaign called “A chocolatefor the soldiers”. We had to write a letter to the soldiers and wehad to give them away a chocolate, that’s because of the low temperature.There were another campaigns in order to collect warm clothes and foodbecause the army only gave them the basic elements. And even worsethey were treated badly. Most of our hopes never arrived and those chocolatesnever were sent, in fact some people stole and re-sell them later.That’s why I wrote that “Some events show the worst and the best from people”.Of course there were very nice people who helped a lot. We usually are verykind.The UK military also took advantage of these events. Furthermore, a retiredChilean military recently admitted that the Chilean military helped the UK armytelling them the position of the Argentinean ships and soldiers and thestrategies they had. Everybody wanted a piece of this cake.Besides this, the General Galtieri, the most hated person in Argentina,was drinkin’ whisky while 600 young Argentineans kids were dying.Very sad to be true.To sum up, there were many events and I could write pages and pagesabout this. The war was pointless, I think nobody won this war,it was a big loss for two countries and benefit for a few people.

Arnaldo Mariano S., Jul 6, 2007.

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