Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Monday, 27 July 2009 18:08 UK

Nepal thanks Lumley over Gurkhas

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Joanna Lumley presented the prime minister of Nepal with a scarf and a pen

Nepal's president and prime minister have thanked visiting actress Joanna Lumley for helping get "justice" for British army Gurkha soldiers.

President Ram Baran Yadav said she had "championed" the cause, while Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said Nepal was "rejoicing" over her achievement.

Ms Lumley, whose father was a Gurkha regiment officer, fronted a campaign for UK settlement rights for Gurkhas.

She was greeted in Nepal by a crowd with signs describing her a "goddess".

'An honour'

President Yadav, who told her: "You have championed the cause of Gurkhas.

"For this social justice, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to you and to all of your team members."

After meeting the former Absolutely Fabulous star, the prime minster said all Nepalese people recognised her achievements.

Joanna Lumley is greeted by well-wishers in Kathmandu, Nepal
Ms Lumley was adorned with scarves by admirers amid scenes of "chaos"

"I think the Gurkhas have got justice, whether complete or just to some extent I cannot see," he said.

After the meeting, Ms Lumley said it was an "honour" to meet the prime minister, adding that he had been "so gracious" to her.

The actress told reporters: "He made a wonderful speech of welcome and he was pleased with the work we have done for the Gurkha veterans."

Her group will also have afternoon tea with the British ambassador to Nepal, Dr Andrew Hall, before laying a wreath at a war memorial near the embassy.

As part of her tour, Ms Lumley addressed an audience of Gurkha veterans at the capital Kathmandu's city hall.

Ms Lumley is to travel around the country, including into the Himalayas, to meet more veterans.

'Fairytale'

Many of them were among hundreds of well-wishers who mobbed her at the airport, a reception she described as a "fairytale".

On Tuesday, Ms Lumley will visit Jhapa and Dharan to meet Gurkhas; on Wednesday the group will meet members of the Gurkha Welfare Trust charity; and on Thursday she will visit with Gurkhas' widows.

My friends of Nepal, I am your family coming to Nepal for the first time
Joanna Lumley

Finally, before flying back to the UK on 1 August, Ms Lumley will visit Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, and then return to Kathmandu to visit orphans and homeless children.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Kathmandu said there was "chaos" at Tribhuvan International Airport when Ms Lumley arrived.

Our correspondent added that Ms Lumley was regarded as an "absolute hero" in Nepal following her campaigns on behalf of the Gurkhas.

She greeted the crowd with the Gurkha battle cry "Ayo Gurkhali".

Ms Lumley added: "My friends of Nepal, I am your family coming to Nepal for the first time.

"I want to thank you so much."

'The rest is history'

Some of those who turned out to meet her carried placards which read: "Goddess Joanna" and "Thank you".

Ms Lumley is travelling with Gurkha Justice campaigner Peter Carroll, who started the campaign for Gurkhas' UK settlement rights.

He said some people were expected to walk for three days just to be a part of Ms Lumley's visit.

Mr Carroll said that he expected he would be overshadowed by Ms Lumley - despite the fact that he is well known in Nepal for launching the campaign.

He explained how he first contacted Ms Lumley after a women in Kent tapped him on the shoulder and suggested he ask her to get involved. Mr Carroll added: "The rest is history."

In May, the government said all retired Gurkha soldiers - originally from Nepal - with at least four years service in the British Army, could stay in the UK.


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