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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 4. 22 March 1972

Anti—Conscription Campaign Underway — Support For Conscientious Objectors

page 4

Anti—Conscription Campaign Underway

Support For Conscientious [unclear: Objectors]

Under the National Military Service Act 1961 and its subsequent amendments every male person becomes subject to registration under the Act on the attainment of his 19th birthday and register within fourteen days of that birthday. There are two types of registration (apart from provisions for postponement of service on the grounds of hardship). Firstly, registration for military service where you become liable for fourteen weeks full-time training of not more than 60 days in all, followed by three years in the Army Reserve. This is pretty straightforward for the application forms are available from post offices end, provided you get in the ballot and pass the medical you're in. The second type of registration, conscientious objection to military service, is more of an obstacle course. In the first place, the poster which can be seen at railway stations Is deliberately misleading for it does not even mention that you can register as a conscientious objector as an alternative to military service. Secondly, you have to register on a separate form (Lab MT3) which is available not from post offices but from the Department of Labour, a less accessible institution. Thirdly, if you do register as a conscientious objector and get in the ballot you have to go before a tribunal of three to prove that your conscience does not allow you to fight. If you do not fall in the ballot you remain registered as a provisional conscientious objector. You will notice that those who register for military service do not have to go before a tribunal to prove that they conscientiously want to fight. So, although in theory the two types of registration seem to be on a per, in practice registering as a conscientious objector requires firm individual convictions and persistence to go through an administrative machine and face a tribunal. Registering for military service requires neither convictions nor persistence - you just follow the crowd and fell over the cliff into the army.

If you wish to become a conscientious objector it is useful to bear the following points in mind. There are two categories of conscientious objection: unconditional, which is an objection to all military service, and conditional, which is an objection to combatant duties only. If you tell the tribunal that you are willing to undertake non-combatant duties then very little further questioning will take place. This is hardly surprising when you realise that in a modern highly mechanised army the logistical tail is usually larger than the combat head (which is one of the reasons why the unmechanised Vietcong can run rings round mechanised Americans in Vietnam). People who are seriously thinking of becoming non-combatants should realise that without them the combat troops could not fight in the manner in which they are accustomed. There is a strong case for saying that non-combatants are still part of the military machine and are fighting by proxy.

The tribunal is set up under the act to discover, as far as it can, the sincerity with which a person's views on conscientious objection are held. Although originally it was considered that such views could only be held on the basis of a belief in a Supreme Being, this is no longer the case. Any person who cannot, on the basis of his conscience, bring himself to take part in military service can apply to become a conscientious objector. The battle to obtain the right for conscientious objection to war has been fought and won by dozens of people who went to prison during the first and second world wars. It is now a part hearing by the tribunal. All you have to do is to explain in a straight forward, friendly and positive manner why you feel the same way about war as those people who went to prison for their beliefs

Portrait photo of an American soldier

A witness is very important to help your case. The tribunal only has about 10 or 15 minutes to discover where your conscience lies, and the presence of a witness is of inestimable value in helping the tribunal coma to a decision.

It is useful to bear the following-three questions in mind for these are the sort of things the tribunal is interested in:
1.Why do you oppose war as a means of resolving conflict? Points such as regarding yourself as a world citizen so that the life of each person in the world is of supreme value over and above that of alleged "national interests"; that war is not a solution to problems as it only leads to more hatred and war; that modern atomic warfare is simply absurd for it leads to the annihilations of everybody including civilians.
2.What would you do if war came to your country? Points such as relief of suffering through first aid work, ambulance services, fire fighting, civilian "civilised" work in general, unconnected with the war effort.
3.What sort of things are you doing now which illustrate in a practical way the stand you are taking? Protest marches, discussion groups, community work through youth groups, Corso campaigns and the like, and anything which shows a constructive rather than destructive approach to life.

If your objection to military service is based primarily on a dislike to the Vietnam war in particular rather than any strongly held belief against war in general this could quite legitimately be put into any statement e.g. the Vietnam war is the only war you have had any real contact with, and if war is as bad as that you just cannot tee yourself taking part. You may get a question, though the are fairly rare these days, of the type, "What [unclear: wo] you do if an enemy soldier was about to rape your mother"? The best answer to this, (apart from the rather risky flippant joke approach of telling your mother to lie back and enjoy it) is probably, "I don't know what I would do [unclear: because] it's a purely hypothetical and extreme situation which I haven't met yet, and I might well try and clobber the soldier." The basic point to remember throughout, however, is that what you say should be a statement of your own beliefs, not the ones here. Further information on conscientious objection can be obtained from Roger Martin 138B Kelburn Parade, Wellington 5 (759-[unclear: 662]

There is, finally, a third alternative which can be considered more radical than becoming a CO.; this it conscientious non-compliance or [unclear: non-co-of] eration in which you refuse to register at all and thereby break the law. By registering as a C. O. under the National Military Service Act you implicitly recognise the right of the state to conscript people to fight, but use the C.O. clauses which the state has kindly provided to show that you cannot enlist on the grounds of personal conscience. By refuting to register at all you are in fact saying that the state has no right to ask its citizens to fight or to be trained to fight. The law takes a dim view of this position, of course, at this stand can land you in jail for up to three months or a fine of up to $400. In addition, or as an alternative, to fine or imprisonment the magistrate may direct you to undertake other work for up to a year on Army pay scales. Employers also commit an offence under the Act if they employ a person knowing that he has not registered. Moreover you technically commit a further [unclear: offenc] every day you do not register so that if you are convicted once you can still be re-arrested and convicted again for continuing to refute to register.

Further information on non-compliance can be obtained from Organisation to Halt Military Service (OHMS) P.O.Box 1226, Wellington. (758-646).

Photo of a tank