Nepal Supreme Court directs government to regulate Singapore, Brunei recruitment

SC: Regulate S’pore, Brunei recruitment


THE KATHMANDU POST, JUL 01 - The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday directed the government to regulate the over half-a-century old practice of recruiting Nepali youth in Singapore Police Force and Royal Brunei Police Force through ‘mutual cooperation’ with the two countries.

The court ruling that drew upon the doctrine of Parens Patriae, however, is not obligatory as it is entirely up to the government to decide whether or not to enter into any agreement with foreign countries. As per the doctrine, a government is always granted the “inherent power and authority to protect persons who are legally unable to act on their own behalf.”

The court ruling was in response to a litigation filed by advocate Om Prakash Aryal on behalf of concerned ex-servicemen about five-and-a-half years ago. The litigation registered on Dec. 17, 2004 pointed out that Nepal and its citizens recruited as security personnel in Singapore and Brunei are at a huge loss, both politically and financially, as there is no formal bilateral agreement of the government of Nepal with Singapore and Brunei on manpower trade.

Since 1965, the time when Singapore was still a British colony, thousands of Nepali youth have served and retired as Singapore Police and over 2,000 of them are still in service, according to the Singapore Gorkha Pensioners’ Association in Nepal.

Compared to native soldiers there, they are deprived in terms of pay and perks.

Each year, over one hundred Nepali youth are recruited in a separate Gurkha Contingent in the Singapore Police Force. Except for the UK and India, there is no agreement with Singapore or Brunei, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Strangely, the Gurkhas are not recruited directly by the Singapore government but by the British Army, which receives “commission” for the job. The advocates, including Chandra Kant Gyawali and Tikaram Bhattarai, argued that such unofficial hiring was akin to “human trafficking”. 

The court ruling builds on two strong arguments: First, it is the duty of the government to protect its citizens if their rights are violated due to the absence of bilateral agreements with Singapore and Brunei.

Second, the fact that foreign countries are recruiting Nepali youth without any valid bilateral agreement questions the sovereignty of the country. No sovereign country, said the petition, allows any foreign country to hire its citizens without agreement.

The court also asked the government not to violate the individual’s right to choose employment in the place of his/her desire as per the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Nepal is party.

“We are pleased to hear the apex court ruling,” said Kiran Rai,  a member of the Association. “I believe this has opened up ways to further our legal battle for our rights. Still, there is still a long way to go as this ruling will have to be implemented first.”

According to ex-servicemen from Singapore and Brunei, they are “heavily” discriminated against in terms of pays, perks and other facilities. For instance, Nepali widows of the retired Nepali Singapore Police are still denied pension.

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