Budget cuts to hit wages and training at Regiment
More than $1 million in budget cuts at the Bermuda Regiment will hit both local training operations and wages.
According to the Budget, released on Friday, total budgeted wages at the Regiment are expected to fall from $2.9 million in 2010/11 to $1.7 million in 2011/12.
The bulk of the cut is expected to affect local training, which was allotted $1.67 million in the new financial year starting in April more than $1 million less than it received in 2010/11.
Regiment Commander Brian Gonsalves said yesterday: “I cannot comment yet as I first need to brief all of my staff on the changes, so no comment until after that meeting which is not to happen until the end of next week.”
However, he remarked: “As soldiers, we always crack on and find a way to get it done.”
Former Colonel Gavin Shorto echoed that sentiment, telling The Royal Gazette: “The Regiment’s ethos, the point of training, is being able to respond well to difficult and unusual circumstances.
“For them, this will be just another emergency, and they’ll deal with it efficiently, as they always do.”
Lt Col Gonsalves said the budget was one of the issues he discussed with visiting British MP Andrew Rosindell yesterday. Mr Rosindell, who chairs a cross-Parliamentary group that promotes the interests of the Overseas Territories, watched training exercises during a visit to Warwick Camp.
“We had some very frank discussions on some of the issues that have been ongoing for a while,” said Lt Col Gonsalves.
“We explained if he could help resolve some of those issues, the Regiment would be in a better position to carry out its role.”
He declined to detail those challenges, but said they are logistical, and relate to “administrative courses, kit and equipment”.
Mr Rosindell is a backbench MP in the Conservative party, which is part of Britain’s coalition Government.
According to Lt Col Gonsalves: “He was very positive. It [the discussion] all centred around the British Government’s about-face on their feelings towards the Overseas Territories. Certainly he was keen to look into it and hopefully fix the problem.”
The Commander said the topic of conscription did not come up during the discussion.
Mr Rosindell is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committtee, which three years ago made a series of recommendations for Bermuda including phasing out conscription to the Bermuda Regiment.
However, Mr Rosindell told The Royal Gazette this week he does not think conscription a bad thing.
While he would prefer to see soldiers join the Regiment voluntarily, he said there is “no harm about having a certain level of conscription” and he’s heard no complaints about the Government policy during his trip to Bermuda.
“I think being in the Regiment is incredibly good for young people, to have the discipline of something like the Bermuda Regiment,” he commented.
Mr Rosindell said he was not aware of the campaign by Bermudians Against the Draft [BAD] to get the policy outlawed, and not aware of that group’s concerns over abuse of conscripts, raised at Supreme Court earlier this month.
“I’m very disturbed if that’s the case, allegations like that should be properly investigated,” he said.
His remarks sparked concern from BAD leader Larry Marshall Sr who said: “First and foremost, Mr Rosindell’s comments must be looked at within the context of his homeland, Britain. Fifty years ago conscription was abolished there so it is difficult to understand how he could support a system which his own country got rid of a half century ago.
“Secondly Mr Rosindell’s comments must be looked at within the context of what has transpired in Bermuda during the past five years, but more significantly within the last two weeks. Had he been aware of what had transpired he would have probably been more guarded in expressing an opinion on conscription from a somewhat hypothetical perspective.
“By his own admission he was not aware of the recent revelations which emerged at the hearing in our Supreme Court earlier this month. Therefore, and I say this respectfully, he is not in the best position to offer an opinion on an issue he knows very little, if anything, about.”
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