Bermuda’s parliamentarians took a vote that finally ended conscription in the House of Assembly on Friday night.
Speaking on the floor of the Lower House, National Security Minister Wayne Caines said the Defence Amendment Act was “a once-in-a-generation chance to transform the Royal Bermuda Regiment into a bespoke hybrid organisation, which is more efficient, effective and professional”.
The former Royal Bermuda Regiment (RBR) officer said conscription had “served Bermuda well over the years”.
But in this modern-day era, he said: “The time has come for conscription into the Royal Bermuda Regiment to end, as is the case in each of the other Overseas Territories.
“I am confident that Bermuda will be the better for ending conscription,” he added.
“The RBR will continue its extensive public relations campaigns and incentive programmes in order to attract men and women to serve.”
He also noted that the RBR review conducted over the past six months found that a total of 327 personnel, 28 officers and 299 soldiers, could carry out the work of the RBR.
That number is down from the 400 soldiers recommended in a 2014 report.
The most recent review also focused on the creation of a coast guard. Training is set to start now, as RBR soldiers work alongside the Bermuda Police Service,until the RBR Coast Guard is fully trained and ready to take it over by April 2020.
Moving forward, he said the RBR will recruit with “a promise to invest in those officers and soldiers who volunteer to serve Bermuda”.
“Through training partners in Bermuda and overseas, the regiment will deliver a pathway of education and training that is second-to-none,” he added.
“In short, this is a very exciting time to be a member of the Royal Bermuda Regiment.”
He also noted that the pressure group, the Nine Colonels “remain steadfast in their belief that conscription should not end”.
But he said they were “open” to the recommendations of the latest review.
“They have made it clear that they would like to see a clear time continuum and firm undertaking by the Government that shows a commitment to enacting the key recommendations,” he said.
Bermuda Real reached out to Bermudians Against the Draft (BAD spokesman Larry Marshall Sr, who lobbied heavily to end conscription. Now that it has finally happened, Mr Marshall he will have a statement later today.
Meanwhile, former Premier and Shadow Minister of National Security Michael Dunkley said he was glad “the day has come where we can deal with it”.
But at the same time, he said: We need to make sure that the RBR is in a position to effectively fill out their mandate.”
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