BAD plan an election boycott
Bermudians Against the Draft are planning a campaign urging young black men not to vote.
The groups leader Larry Marshall Sr said members feel marginalised and maligned as neither Government nor the Opposition backs their fight against conscription.
The voting boycott was condemned by Minister of National Security Wayne Perinchief, who said it is quite simply irresponsible. Governor Richard Gozney said it is turning logic on its head and the One Bermuda Alliance said that telling people not to vote is not the answer.
A general election has to be called in Bermuda by the end of next year, but it is widely expected that one will be held before the end of this year.
Mr Marshall Sr e-mailed Premier Paula Cox yesterday to announce the planned boycott. In the e-mail, which he shared with this newspaper, he described conscription as forced labour.
He also criticised Government for attempting to defend the right of the Regiment to arrest BAD members for draft-dodging while legal action aimed at abolishing conscription is ongoing.
BAD won an order from Puisne Judge Norma Wade-Miller yesterday banning the Regiment from arresting three BAD members until a Court of Appeal hearing in their case has concluded.
The judge also ruled that BAD should not have to foot Governments legal bill following its failed attempt to win its case at the Supreme Court earlier this year.
Mrs Justice Wade-Miller agreed with the groups lawyer Eugene Johnston that, although BAD lost the case, it was of sufficient public importance that the group should not have to pay Governments costs.
Government opposed the orders being granted and Mr Marshall Sr complained to the Premier: That this is happening in 2011 graphically illustrates how backward we as a people are when it comes to human rights. It also shows the incredibly low perception this country has of young black males which transcends conscription.
As a consequence, many of this most marginalised and maligned group are sick and tired of always receiving the short end of the stick, not only when it comes to conscription but other areas as well.
He said BAD members will not be voting and they will also be encouraging their friends not to vote for a party that does not respect basic human rights.
He concluded by saying: You may be able to force them into the Regiment but you cant force them to the polls.
Asked why he plans to encourage voters not to vote for the OBA either, Mr Marshall Sr said: If neither of the parties support us then theyve left us with no choice. The OBA are well aware of our position.
He explained that the boycott will be promoted via social networking sites. He added that he got a reply from Ms Cox, acknowledging his e-mail.
This newspaper contacted Ms Cox for comment, which resulted in Minister of National Security Wayne Perinchief issuing a statement saying: Mr Marshalls contentions are well known and the Government respects his right to these strongly-held views. There is a legal process in train and, pending the exhaustion of that process, no comment can be made on the substance of the matter.
Like any responsible organisation, the Bermuda Regiment respects the legal process and has consistently demonstrated such during the course of this legal challenge.
Separately, voting is a civic duty and discouraging young people from voting is quite simply irresponsible. In a democratic society, the citizens purest form of expression is his or her vote.
Mr Marshalls campaign runs counter to exactly what we and many in the community are trying to achieve: responsible citizens and young people interested in the future of their country and energised to exercise their right to vote.
Governor Sir Richard Gozney said: Urging voters not to vote is turning logic on its head. I would urge young Bermudians who want to bring about change to join in the political debate and to work for their ideals and principles through political activity, inside and outside of parties as well as in the media.
I would have thought that to stand aside in the corner, because others dont share your views at present, is unlikely to persuade public opinion or politicians to come around to your way of thinking.
Shadow Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley of the One Bermuda Alliance said: While we understand BADs strong feelings on this issue, telling people not to vote is not the answer. It is clear that BAD face an uphill battle on this issue, but that has been the story for people around the world who want to be recognised as conscientious objectors.
Some have succeeded and others have not. There is precedent for conscientious objection in other countries, and the substitution of civilian service for military service is an argument worth pursuing.
The OBA has discussed this issue and I have been in continuing contact with Mr Marshall and members of BAD. We understand their position and are willing to work with them for the best possible solutions for them and Bermuda. With that in mind, we invite Mr Marshall and BAD to meet with members of our caucus.
Regiment Commander Brian Gonsalves said: The Bermuda Regiment has consistently abided by the court rulings and will continue to do so.
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