22 February 2019: A Nepalese woman has given a Singaporean politician crash course in the proud history of Gurkhas and why Singapore needs these fearsome fighters from the Himalayan foothills.
Jeni Gurung was responding to a rather confronting Facebook status by Singapore People’s Party (SPP) politician and lawyer, Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss. Ms Chong-Aruldoss’ post came in the form of six questions:
“Why does the Singapore Government retain an army of Gurkha soldiers?
Being paid soldiers, aren’t they mercenaries?
Being mercenaries, aren’t they loyal only to their paymasters and have no love of Singaporeans?
What is the role of the Gurkha mercenaries in Singapore National Security?
Can Singaporeans do their job being done by the Gurkha mercenaries? If not, why not?
Whose interests do these hired hands / paid soldiers serve and protect?”
The status caught attention of Ms Gurung whose surname is shared by thousands of Gurkhas working as elite soldiers across the world.
In her essay-length response to the opposition politician’s post, Ms Gurung reminded that without Gurkhas Singapore wouldn’t be as safe as it is today. It is because of Gurkhas that Singapore has the image of being a very secure country – an image that may have potentially played a key role in Singapore being chosen as Kim-Trump meeting venue, Ms Gurung indicated.
She asked the lawmaker to search the Internet to find out how so many news articles about Gurkhas appeared in the media just around the time the Kim-Trump meeting took place in Singapore.
Responding to why Singapore still retains the Gurkhas, she wrote, “Despite how Singapore prides itself for being a multicultural country, racial disparities still exist. This is one of the biggest reasons why the Gurkhas are needed. They act as a neutral force and remain impartial towards the four main races of Singapore.
One may say that a racial riot has not happened in years but what if it does? No one can guarantee that it will never happen. And when it happens, how are Singaporeans going to subdue it? Even if a Singaporean officer remains impartial, he/she is still going to face backlash and God forbid a Chinese officer attacks a Malay rioter or a Malay officer attacks a Chinese rioter.”
She very openly admits that she is not sure if the Gurkhas love the Singaporean people but they definitely love Singapore and their job is to protect it. She pointed out that they come to the country when they’re 18 year old and spend 27 years of their life in Singapore, “By the time they retire at 45, they would have spent more than half their life time in Singapore than in Nepal. Moreover, most of their children are born and raised in Singapore like myself.”
Jeni Gurung retorted that Gurkhas are not dogs that are “loyal to their masters” and that they “follow protocols as you would know from the Shangri-La Dialogue shooting” instead of shooting anyone their “masters” tell them to shoot at, as some believe.
Their work is not just for monetary gains like mercenaries, she continued in her comment, “Being a Gurkha is an honor in Nepal. It’s a tradition that has existed long before Singapore’s independence. If you look at the requirements to become a Gurkha, you’ll know how incredibly tough it is. Not anyone can become one.”
The love and respect for Gurkhas Singaporeans have become apparent from the comments non-Nepalese Facebook users have made in response to the status by the SPP politician. However, there are comments that also support the viewpoint of the opposition politician.
Aileng Choo, for instance, wrote, “The Gurkhas are part of the police, not the military. That distinction is important. They have served Singapore well and we should be thankful for their long service.”