Joanna Lumley's de facto state visit to Nepal continued yesterday as the star of Absolutely Fabulous had tea with the President, gave the Prime Minister a scarf and greeted yet more thankful Gurkhas with their traditional war cry "Ayo Gurkhali!" ("The Gurkhas are coming")
The 63-year-old actress is on a six-day visit to the Himalayan republic after she and fellow campaigners forced the British Government to give all Gurkhas who have fought in the British Army the right to settle in the UK. Previously, only those who had retired after 1997 were allowed to come to Britain once they left the armed forces.
Nepal's Communist Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, thanked the former model for her role in the campaign and for the cashmere scarf and pen she gave him. "The Gurkhas have got justice, whether complete or just to some extent I cannot see," he said. "But we are all rejoicing over what [Joanna Lumley] has achieved."
Earlier, Gurkha veterans and their families packed into Kathmandu's city hall for a ceremony hosted by the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation, which represents many of the 26,000 Gurkhas in Nepal who receive a British pension.
Many of the ex-servicemen now refer to Lumley as a goddess for what she has achieved. Harka Bahadur Pua, 84, a Second World War veteran, walked for six hours from his village and then took a 12-hour bus ride to the city to catch a glimpse of Lumley. Asked why he travelled so far, he said he simply wanted to see the actress with his own eyes.