Senators approve end of conscription
Senators yesterday passed legislation to end conscription into the island’s military.
Jason Hayward, a Progressive Labour Party senator, said an all-volunteer Royal Bermuda Regiment would be “well aware of the commitment and dedication required, yet are still willing and honoured to serve their country”.
He added that many of the volunteers would serve beyond the three years required by compulsory service.
Nandi Outerbridge, a One Bermuda Alliance senator, said that her party supported the Bill and added that the OBA had announced its intention to end the practice years ago.
She added: “So while the PLP had this in their Throne Speech, I think it’s important to remind people that no one has been conscripted in the last three years.”
But Ms Outerbridge said she would have liked to have seen a phased-in approach to the end of conscription.
Independent senator James Jardine praised the RBR for having a “positive impact on many of our young people”.
Mr Jardine said he was interested to hear more about an educational and training programme that would be provided to RBR volunteers.
He asked Mr Hayward if it was expected that the budget for the RBR would rise in the coming years as a result of the training scheme, as well as Coast Guard duties and overseas relief efforts.
Vance Campbell, a PLP senator, highlighted a transitional provision in the legislation, which required any soldier earlier conscripted to the RBR to serve the remainder of their term.
He added: “That will help with some of the numbers issues as we transition into a totally volunteer Regiment.”
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, said she was interested to hear references to positive experiences in the RBR.
Ms Simmons explained: “I can guarantee you for as many positive experiences that people have had, there are many who have had many negative experiences.”
But she encouraged those considering military service to “come on board”.
Ms Simmons added: “The opportunities will be astounding for all.”
Michelle Simmons, an Independent senator, said that Sweden had struggled to find volunteers after ending conscription in 2010, and had reinstated the it in 2017.
Ms Simmons added: “Nothing is permanent. Nothing is static.
“The world changes, we change our thinking in the world that is happening around us.”
She said the end of conscription must be accompanied by an “extremely effective” recruitment programme.
Ms Simmons added that Bermuda had never promoted professional military service as a career path for students.
She said that conscription did not guarantee the quality of RBR recruits.
Ms Simmons added: “Volunteers can be the best persons serving in the regiment.
“So let’s keep an open mind, and let’s not stereotype people who volunteer their services — because many of them do it from the heart and they do it because they want to be there.”
The Defence Amendment Act 2018 passed without objection.
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