Walter Roban: “Bill Does Not End Conscription”

December 14, 2015

The OBA’s bill “does not end conscription, in any way, shape or form” and the “government have totally disregarded the trust placed in them on this issue by the electorate and the anti-conscription campaigners,” Shadow Minister Walter Roban said.

Mr Roban said, “Friday’s debate on conscription exposed the One Bermuda Alliance as willing to say anything to secure a vote. Prior to the 2012 General Election, Michael Dunkley stated in various forms that the OBA would abolish conscription.

“He attacked the PLP continually for not doing so, and promised the anti-conscription campaigners that an OBA government would indeed abolish conscription. Despite not including it in their election platform, they did, however, reiterate their stance publically and privately while canvassing.

“Conversely, it was the Progressive Labour Party who made the pledge to end Conscription in our 2012 election platform. We kept our word by introducing the Abolition of Conscription Act in November 2013, which would have eliminated conscription, however this Bill was rejected outright by the OBA Government.

“The past three years has seen an OBA government which has shown little movement on this issue despite it’s strategic appearance in OBA Throne Speeches. Finally, more than two years after they rejected the PLP’s bill to end conscription, two weeks ago, the OBA introduced a bill to, in their words “end conscription”.

“The legislation was tabled, and to everyone’s shock, it is simply a rewording of the existing Defence Act. The public must be aware that conscription has always been used to supplement volunteer enlistment in the Bermuda Regiment.

“According to The Defence Act 1965, ‘The regiment shall be raised and maintained by means of voluntary enlistment, and also, in case voluntary enlistment proves inadequate for the raising or maintenance of the regiment, by means of compulsory military service, in the manner hereinafter in this Act provided.

“The new wording states, ‘Where voluntary enlistment leaves a shortfall in the required number of members of the regiment, the Governor after consulting the Minister and the Defence Board may revise the role and responsibilities of the regiment to take account of the shortfall in numbers or provide for conscription of the required number of members in accordance with the principal Act.

“The two wordings essentially say the same thing – that conscription will be used to ensure a fully staffed regiment. Premier Dunkley and the OBA government have totally disregarded the trust placed in them on this issue by the electorate and the anti-conscription campaigners.

“Most upsetting though, was the manner in which Premier Dunkley responded on the daily news by putting the onus on the anti-conscription campaigners to provide a solution to conscription.

“Premier Dunkley should have had a suitable solution when he was attacking the PLP government, and making pre-election promises to the constituents. He condemned the PLP for not abolishing conscription, yet the OBA clearly had no solution in mind themselves.

“The Progressive Labour Party believes in abolishing conscription. Our bill, tabled in 2013, abolished conscription, and provided for a revamp of the Bermuda Regiment by making it a smaller, fulltime force, which would not depend on conscripts in any way to fulfill the ranks.

“The OBA’s bill, while allowing for the force to be filled by volunteers, still requires conscripts to fulfill the ranks if there aren’t enough volunteers. This legislation does not end conscription, in any way, shape or form.

“We, in the Progressive Labour Party, attempted to improve the bill by adding a provision that would have excused any conscripted male, who had applied to be a conscientious objector in the past, from compulsory military service against his will.

“This was rejected by the OBA, meaning that young males who are conscientious objectors will still be forced to perform military service against their will. That’s right, the OBA who said they would end conscription, not only kept it on the books, but will still force conscientious objectors to serve and criminalise them if they do not.

“The next PLP government will remove conscription from the laws of Bermuda to ensure the regiment is an all volunteer force. We will continue to stand up for the rights of conscientious objectors who are being forced to serve against their will.

“On the important issue of conscription, we believe that one’s word must be his bond, and on this issue, it is clear that Premier Michael Dunkley’s word means little.”

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Comments (16)

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  1. Private says:

    Didn’t the PLP, just before 2012, take the anti-conscription campaigners all the way to the Privy Council to ensure that conscription was retained? The same Government administration of which Mr. Roban was a part.

    Amazing what an election can do to a politician’s positions on certain matters.

    The PLP 2013 amendment was a simple paragraph, with no thought to the unintended consequences as to what would happen to the regiment. That is not responsible legislation or law making. Just as we saw with the PLP’s rushed drunk driving bill and PRC immigration legislation.

    I, for one, believe in the need to maintain a strong regiment force as is the case for all countries big or small.

    As for this legislation, it is responsible in the sense that it will ensure that the regiment institution survives and will be firstly based on volunteers. The regiment has been successful in achieving an all volunteer force for 2016 and believe it can be maintained going forward with the right incentives and recruiting.

    The conscription clause is a last resort and can only be enacted if approved by the Defense Board, the relevant Minister and the Governor. Despite the objections the regiment is a much needed force.

    It is like an insurance policy where everyone complains about the need to pay the premium, but are more than thankful for doing so when they need it the most.

    • Jus' Wonderin' says:

      Don’t hurt them (PLP/UBP) with facts now….lmfao!

  2. Rhonnie aka Blue Familiar says:

    You’re right. It doesn’t abolish conscription. What it does is take a first step in that direction. This isn’t a bad thing, sometimes baby steps are better than leaps off cliffs.

    This does not mean that I fully agree with the decision, but until we can be certain that the Regiment can hold a full volunteer force it’s not a bad idea.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      I too would eventually like to see conscription ended, however, we need a fully staffed regiment for times of need, not just for ourselves, but for our friends and neighbors that we have gone to assist in their times of need. What the PLP are refusing to acknowledge is that; a. They have no idea how to end conscription without jepordizing it’s important role or costing taxpayers millions of dollars we don’t have, nor b. That to date the OBA has done more to encourage a regiment that doesn’t need to to rely on conscription, even if it still on the legislation.
      While they continue to harp on the idea that the Premier broke his word, they ignore one important thing, while he may have promised to end conscription, he is also the Premier and Minister for national security, so first and foremost he has to make sure the regiment can be maintained to conduct its role in our community. And so far he has done more than any before to remove our reliance on conscription, having not eliminated it.
      I speak as someone who was a very resistant conscript, who then went on to serve for over 4 years, having found many opportunities to test and better myself while there, and come out of with many more friends than when I grudgingly marched through those gates. And with a pay scaling comparable to the police services, It was not some forced slave labour as Mr. Marshall too often tries to delineate it to.

  3. SANDGROWNAN says:

    Got to go with Bud on this one – sheer nonsense to still have conscription on the books. What the RBR should be doing, is making being a professional soldier and attractive option.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      They do, but they just don’t have the budget (and neither does Bermuda, thank in large part to the PLP) to staff a full time regiment. Nor do we have the need for a full time regiment, to suggest so is to say that we should be paying people to effectively do nothing for most of their service.

  4. aceboy says:

    Just waiting for the OBA to come along and set the record straight, as usual.

    we believe that one’s word must be his bond….yea, sure you do. When it is an OBA word. When it is PLP the story changes considerably.

  5. hmmm says:

    “On the important issue of conscription, we believe that one’s word must be his bond”

    We can therefore infer that the other PLP promises ones’ word is not one’s bond. GOT IT !

    EXPLAINS ALOT !

  6. Triangle Drifter says:

    Old news. This has been known for weeks now & the PLP is just getting around to saying something.

    Where were they when the revision, no revision really, to the act was first made public?

  7. So please do tell how if we have a crisis will we be able to recruit able body persons. Duhh we have to have the ability to recruit persons as the cost to use the UK is extremely expensive.

  8. Onion says:

    The PLP promised to end conscription several times and never took action (just like PATI and so many other things). Now we’re supposed to think that they were just about to finally get around to it when they lost the election.

    Yeah, right.

    • scorpio says:

      What the Regiment is needs to be redefined. I’ve seen arguments as to the pomp and pageantry spectacle of having them march up and down for the entertainment of our tourists. We dont have the luxury of providing that anymore.

      The Regiment should be streamlined in coast guard units, special police, and internal security who handle disaster relief in the odd occassion of major hurricane damage, and make it a profession removing the conscription completely. Screen applicants as you would police, prisons and fire service, picking the best of the best who demonstrate the physical and mental qualities needed to be a career soldier. From my time up there, I saw guys who didnt know their left from right and the idea of them being around live ammo scared the hell outta me.

      With everything else being looked at in terms of costs, I fail to see why the Regiment should be exempt from scrutinizing its functions and update into a tighter, more practical and fiscally viable organization.

  9. Onion juice says:

    What neither side has given us is a realistic plan B. They both know the 2 things they cant change are the current budget and the increasingly inward focused view on conscripted service.
    Give the people a real option,find out what th UK would charge us, if called out,
    Make real headway into refining the regiments role and coat benefit this thing out. Facts and figure tell an undeniable story. Until then we debate the status quo.

  10. hulk_too says:

    be quite interesting if we fully understood what the regiment really affords us. We have such a small minded bermuda, we continue to go with he said , she said bull …. lets try not to impose (convince) others of our opinions. just respect them , others will agree to disagree, that’s what we do as humans.

  11. scorpio says:

    BAD formed as far back as 2006. Regardless of whether you agree with their position, they strongly brought the matter to light during the PLPs time in Government. What was stopping them between then and 2012 from tackling the issue themselves??

  12. ?? says:

    Just now…this island fails my generation countless times…we must jump ship. This island has gone to shit.