WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9: Compulsory military service could be abolished as early as this year.

And new Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley — who visited recruit camp yesterday with junior Minister Sen. Jeff Baron — will also go full steam ahead on transferring maritime security from the Marine Police to the Regiment’s boat troop.

Mr Dunkley declined to put a timetable on the end of conscription – but it is understood he is likely to make an announcement later this year, ending the near-50 year practice following the creation of the desegregated Bermuda Regiment in 1965.

But he said: “I’m not going to waste a lot of time — I review things and move forward and this will be dealt with in a very timely manner. We will make a definitive statement on the way forward as far as conscription goes. The Premier and I have always felt we should abolish conscription and we will work towards that.”

But the Minister added: “I will have to speak to my Cabinet colleagues first — I want to make sure we get the buy-in from my colleagues.”

It is understood plans laid under the previous PLP Government by then-National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief to look at the formation of a larger full-time element in the Regiment to police the country’s waters will also go ahead. The PLP announced prior to the election — in line with earlier promises — that, if re-elected, it would move towards abolishing conscription and creating a smaller, professional armed service.

The end of compulsory military service was announced in the UK in 1957, but it took until the early 1960s for the last of what were known as National Servicemen to be discharged from the three armed services.

Bermuda is the only UK territory still to have conscription. Men aged between 18-33 are picked by random ballot to serve just over three years on a part-time basis.

Lawyer and human rights activist Rod Attride-Stirling, who won the right to refuse military service in the 1990s, said: “Assuming, it’s correct, it’s phenomenal and I’m delighted to hear it. It’s probably good evidence that the OBA is a change, despite what some of its critics have said about it.”

But he added: “I will believe it when I see it because I don’t think either party has gone that far.

“They have also got to get it past Parliament and I doubt that a sufficient number of Parliamentarians will vote against it.”

But he added: “It’s the right move in the right direction — conscription is really an anachronism. In the English-speaking world, the only other place to have conscription is Singapore.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Raymond Hainey is a serving soldier in the Bermuda Regiment.