Submission from Mr Larry Marshall Sr., Bermudians Against the Draft (BAD)
1. I am writing on behalf of the anti-conscription movement in the island of Bermuda in general and specifically on behalf of the organization which I head known as Bermudians Against the Draft (BAD).
2. Our group was formed in January 2006, as a result of forty-two years of abuse perpetuated upon young men unfortunate enough to be randomly selected. In the past individuals have fought against this system but only on an individual basis. However, prior to our emergence there has never been a collective effort to dismantle the present oppressive system and bring complete freedom to our country. That in a nutshell is our mandate. To abolish conscription in our country as soon as possible.
3. To get a better understanding of what we face it is first necessary to deal with the origins of conscription in Bermuda. In 1965 the then predominantly white government of the day enacted legislation which in essence took away the right to freedom of young men 'called up' in the draft. Needless to say this is blatant gender discrimination.
4. The fact that this was a time when young black men were viewed as threatening and potentially dangerous helps to explain why the 1965 Defense Act came about. When the turbulence of the early 60's precipitated by racial injustice is factored into the equation along with the accompanying belief that those same young men possessed a genetic predisposition to violence it becomes apparent that this legal action had absolutely nothing to do with defense. Rather it had everything to do with maintaining the status quo and controlling a certain segment of Bermudian society viewed as so animalistic they could not be entrusted with freedom. At least not all of them at once
5. Not surprisingly this racist element still manifests itself today as attested to by two statistics which speak for themselves and need no explanation. First there is a disproportionate number of young black men drafted each and every year. Secondly, there is a disproportionate number of whites who serve in the capacity of officer. Furthermore, according to a newspaper report in our local daily on June 2, 2006, there has been a history of conflict within the Bermuda Regiment due to internal racial divisions. That substantiates what has just been stated along with statistics received from our National Statistic Department.
6. Yet despite this deplorable past what is even more deplorable is that their system is allowed to continue under a predominately black government in 2007. It would appear that they too subscribe to the very same philosophy of the previous government which further explains why young blacks continue to be marginalized and ignored. It would also appear that they are more concerned with maintaining power than doing what's right as far as conscription is concerned irrespective of how many are victimized in the process.
7. How sad when one considers just how oppressive this system actually is and how many thousands of Bermudians have been adversely affected to one degree or another. At BAD headquarters we are constantly inundated with calls from both parents of young men and young men alike who have suffered abuse at the hands of sadistic goons who delight in inflicting pain, physical and emotional, upon their fellow human beings.
8. This abuse includes incessant profanity and vulgar language and also extends to physical beatings. More then one person has told of an environment in which they feared they might be sexually assaulted. This coupled with the routine practice of incarcerating young men in their underwear is a recipe for disaster. For the record these same young men are not even allowed to use the bathroom at night while in boot-camp. This has resulted in many urinating in cans, bottles, plastic bags or even out the windows as they seek to relieve themselves. Mr. Andrew McKinley, one of your M.P.'s alluded to this in the early part of 2007. Several members of our coalition who have served time at Warwick Camp confirmed this and also described the bathroom facilities as absolutely filthy. As terrible as all of this is what takes it down to the level of 21st century slavery is the extremely low pay conscripts receive. A measly $2.25 per hour in one of the richest countries in the world. This same government has spent an exorbitant amount of money on football and cricket
9. How your committee might ask, could the aforementioned be allowed in any civilized society. First of all because whenever society allows an individuals basic right to freedom to be violated abuse of all sorts is inevitable. Our current system of conscription is testament to that. Secondly because that law of necessity authorizes those in power to exert force when necessary, and it will always be necessary due to an innate mechanism which automatically causes mankind to rebel under such circumstances. As a consequence any law authorizing conscription includes a variety of penalties the most severe being incarceration.
10. As a further consequence this has resulted in over forty young men being incarcerated at our local prison for three to six months since 2000. All were black. That is a significant percentage considering the overall number of conscripts. And to add insult to injury they still must complete their military duty upon release. Failure to do so means another term of incarceration which means that, technically speaking, one could do a life sentence in Bermuda simply for being a conscientious objector. Indeed this is a most antiquated and draconian law.
11. Yet as far as incarceration is concerned it is not by any means limited to Westgate Prison. An innumerable amount of young victims have been jailed in the Bermuda Regiment's cells aptly described as 'third world' by one of your compatriots. The sentences vary from one or two days to the maximum under law which is fifty-eight days. A military officer determines the length of stay. During this stay they actually have less rights than a prisoner who has been convicted of a crime in a court of law. Leg shackles and handcuffs are used on a regular basis in an effort to humiliate these detainees. Mr. McKinlay's interest arose after he became enraged having seen a photograph of eight young men being treated so inhumanly in 2003. Amazing not one local politician even blinked an eye.
12. This still continues which is why BAD has challenged this most corrupt system through our local courts. More specifically the Supreme Court. On December 3, 2006 we launched the first of two writ's the both of which have since been consolidated.
13. And to illustrate just how totalitarian and autocratic this system is, the young men were still hunted down like criminals even though they were taking the matter to court. Had they been caught they could have been jailed indefinitely or at least for the duration of the court case which could possibly last for years. At one residence an army jeep with six soldiers accompanied by three police cars arrived to arrest one BAD member on the writ. As unbelievable as that sequence of events sounds it is all well documented in articles of our local newspaper the Royal Gazette. The relevant links are provided at the end of this presentation.
14. During that period not one local politician had the guts to offer any support for the group even though what transpired could aptly be described, to use the American Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas words, as a modem day, high-tech lynching. Needless to say we expect no help from these hypocrites and cowards who publicly endorse and champion conscription while their own children avoid military duty. To them political expediency is what matters most.
15. It is for this reason that I, on behalf of both BAD and every young conscientious objector in this country, appeal to your committee to act on our behalf in the following ways if possible:
i. Conduct a board of inquiry into the innumerable allegations of abuse which are said to have taken place in our country at Warwick Camp during the past forty-two years due to conscription. Such a board would provide anonymity for those afraid of reprisals.
ii. Put pressure on the present government to end this madness at once seeing they lack the back bone and conscience to do so by themselves
16 After all Britain is just as responsible seeing they inexplicably allowed it to begin in 1965 when it had been abolished in your country two years prior. Your foreign policy clearly states that the same rights enjoyed in Britain should be enjoyed by every citizen in every overseas territory. How then can you sit idly by and allow such an institution like conscription with all of its accompanying evils to exists when it has been abolished in all but two other jurisdictions within the Commonwealth. How can you sit idly by while young Bermudian men are subjected to such demeaning and abusive treatment while young Englishmen are protected under law. Hopefully you cannot and will act on our behalf in the name of freedom as thousands of young men in our country cry out for justice in the only place people will listen. Sadly that is the House of Commons.
17. In closing I would like to thank you for the opportunity to make this written presentation and will also request the opportunity to appear before your committee in London to make an oral presentation as this would allow me to do justice for our cause.
18. I would also like to state that as a Bermudian I am embarrassed and ashamed to have to appeal to you in London for justice due to my own countryman's ignorance, intransigence, and arrogance concerning this issue.