Sark Newspaper 30 November 2018

4 UNEQUALLED IN THE WESTERN WORLD, OUR INDEPENDENCE IS NON-NEGOTIABLE Lord Keen’s letter to Chief Pleas and the corresponding response, both of which have been published in The Sark Newspaper over the past weeks, have sparked considerable interest in the local media and un- derstandably so. The UK govern- ment’s threat to intervene in the governance of Sark has serious constitutional implications for all of Sark’s fellow Crown Dependencies. In an article in the Jersey Evening Post last week (see opposite page), the former Editor of the Guernsey Press, Richard Digard, presented an argument why it isn’t the UK government, nor Guernsey, but rather Jersey which should take charge of a Sark that is falling apart at the seams. His tongue-in-cheek argument is that since it was Jerseyman Helier de Carteret and mainly his fel- low Jersey Islanders who colonised Sark with the leave of Elizabeth I, it is Jersey and its taxpayers who now have a moral responsibility to sort through the current wreckage since Sark is prov- ing incapable of doing so itself. All whilst Guernsey is unwilling to get involved because they don’t want to pick up the sizeable tab. Further Sark coverage followed in Tuesday’s Guernsey Press with Nick Mann’s “ Inside Poli- tics ” column (see opposite page). Like Richard Digard, Nick Mann’s observations are both acute and valid. It is becoming increasingly ob- vious that the governance of Sark falls well short of the standards expected of a British Crown De- pendency. For ten long years it has been hall- marked by entrenched resistance to introducing transparency and an evidence-based decision- making process. For five of those years the peo- ple of Sark haven’t seen a ballot box and, as a result, not one member of Chief Pleas, the Is- land’s parliament, has received a single vote. Sark’s ‘government’ is unelected as it is secretive and non-evidence based. Richard Digard and Nick Mann are highly re- spected as the most distinguished journalists and commentators in the Channel Islands today. Their knowledge is deep and their writing is sharp. In exposing to their respective reader- ships the true state of affairs they are doing eve- ryone, and especially the people of Sark, a great favour. There is only one problem. Their prem- ise for delivering their observations is fundamen- tally flawed. Although it is undeniable that Lord Keen’s criticisms are as justified as they are merited and, even though his observations and advice are much appreciated, Lord Keen has absolutely no authority to do any- thing else than observe and advise. Thanks to the Crown lease held by the Seigneur of Sark, Major Christopher Beaumont, the UK government has no right, no justification and no authority to intervene in the Island’s affairs. As long as our Seigneur hasn’t acted in breach of his Crown lease, which is unlikely to happen in- deed, the UK government has no choice but to satisfy itself by observing and advising on the governance of Sark. Lord Keen’s threats of in- tervention are nothing but sabre-rattling. As for the idea of either Jersey or Guernsey ‘taking over’ the Island of Sark as, somehow, an act of mercy. The fact is that Mr Beaumont’s Crown lease sets Sark apart from the rest of the Crown Depend- encies. No one - not the UK government, not the States of Guernsey or Jersey and certainly not the EU, have any right whatsoever to interfere in our affairs. Nor should they have. Sark has no representation in Westminster, in Guernsey, in Jersey or Brussels. Nor do we wish to. Advice is welcome - or should be. Criticism of our governance is most definitely warranted. However, what all the ‘outside’ commentators seem to forget when it suits them is that this is very much for Sark itself to sort out. Sark’s in- dependence is unequalled in the western world and it is non-negotiable. The Crown lease grant- ed by Elizabeth I to Helier de Carteret some 450 years ago puts Sark in a unique constitutional situation. A situation which is the greatest asset that this Island has - a completely unique asset to which Guernsey and Jersey have no claim. Lord Keen is astute. He knows his threats of in- tervention are as empty as a church on a week- day. He also knows full well that his depart- ment, the Ministry of Justice, have their hands full with the insecurities of the impending Brexit, which is probably why he hoped that this gun- boat type of diplomacy might deliver when it comes to Sark. It won’t. Much as the people of Sark value his advice, we are very much united in the wish that Lord Keen concentrate his ef- forts on matters closer to home, over which he actually might have some authority.