16th February 2018
THE UK GOVERNMENT SHOULD PUT THEIR OWN HOUSE
IN ORDER BEFORE THEY BEGIN TO LECTURE SARK
Recent months have seen an ever-increasing amount of pressure being put on Sark by the UK government and, in particular, by the Ministry of Justice. We have had visits from unelected MoJ bureaucrats, threatening letters from the former Lord Chancellor and the appointment of the unelected Lord Keen of Elie as the minister with "special interest in the affairs of Sark."
When it comes to sticking their noses into Sark’s affairs the arrogance of Westminster politicians and bureaucrats appears to know no bounds. Given the apparently insurmountable divisions within their own government they would be better spending their time and energy into putting their own house in order, rather than interfering in the governance of Sark, an autonomous jurisdiction over which they have no legitimate authority. The constitution and jurisdiction of Sark lies in the hands of one individual, our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, courtesy of a Crown lease that can trace its roots back to the 16th century. This is an indisputable fact and one that everyone both on and off Sark would do well to reflect upon.
Not one resident of Sark has a representative in the European, British or Guernsey parliaments. Instead, Sark has its own ‘parliament’, its own court, its own judge and its own police force. It is on the edge of Europe but outside the jurisdiction of the politicians and bureaucrats of Strasbourg. Sark is part of the UK whilst being outside the jurisdiction of the politicians and bureaucrats of Westminster. Sark is inside the Bailiwick of Guernsey whilst remaining outside the jurisdiction of the politicians and bureaucrats of Guernsey.
Sark’s autonomy is unequalled in the western world and any attempt by European, British or Guernsey governments to change this, by intervening in our independence, our right to self-determination, or our unique autonomous status, will be challenged in a court of law.
To date the interference of the UK and Guernsey governments in the affairs of Sark have served no purpose other than to embolden the hold that our unelected would-be politicians have over the Island.
The MoJ’s interference in 2008 in the failed attempt to introduce fully representative democracy to Sark has resulted in the people of Sark having no political representation. It is over four years since Sark residents have seen a ballot box. Sark does have its own ‘parliament’, but the assembly is currently populated by an eclectic mix of individuals, all of whom have not faced the electorate.
It is an indisputable fact that only one person has legitimate authority in Sark and that is our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. He is perfectly aware that we have to be ever vigilant in protecting our unique autonomy, something he recognised in his speech to the Sark Chamber of Commerce last December:
“We definitely want to retain our autonomy, probably priority number one.”
The Seigneur is right to make the protection of our autonomy as “priority number one”. In an address to the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce in April of last year he spelled out exactly why this is the case. He is the sole protector of our right to self-determination and it is with him that the future of Sark’s autonomous status lies:
“Sark is unique in that it is a Crown Dependency with direct relationship to Her Majesty and that is through a perpetual lease that is currently held by me but originally granted 452 years ago by Elizabeth I. In today’s terms that means that Sark is a democratic self-governing jurisdiction with a degree of independence. Sark makes its own laws, raises its own taxes and pledges allegiance to the Crown for the protection offered from Her Majesty’s government.”
Many will take issue with the Seigneur’s assertion that Sark is democratically governed. The people of Sark are currently governed by a wholly unelected ‘parliament’, Chief Pleas. Not a single member has faced the electorate, not a single member has received a single vote and not a single member holds a mandate from the people to govern on their behalf. However, the lack of a democratically elected government in Sark is an issue for Sark to sort out, not the politicians, unelected lords and bureaucrats from the UK Ministry of Justice.
This was something that the late Seigneur Michael Beaumont knew only too well. He aptly demonstrated this when the most powerful UK delegation seen in Sark in living memory came to the Island in June 2014 to apply pressure on him to accede to their demands. It consisted of the then Minister of State for Justice, Lord Faulks, the late Lt. Governor, Air Marshal Peter Walker, and Sir Christopher Geidt, Her Majesty’s then Private Secretary. The late Seigneur sent them packing with their tails between their legs, something that at the time many on Sark were uneasy with.
However history has shown that the late Seigneur’s stand against this attempt at interference in Sark’s internal affairs was perfectly judged. No one outside of Sark has the authority to intervene in the Island’s affairs, least of all unelected and ill-informed lords from the UK. One has only to look at the chaos ensuing in Westminster, with Theresa May barely able to keep the warring factions within her cabinet from tearing the government apart, to conclude that they need to get their own house in order before trying to lecture Sark on what it should or should not be doing.
Sark needs to be ever vigilant if it is to protect its unique status in the world as a self-governing jurisdiction. The Island could easily be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that the UK government is far too busy dealing with Brexit to concern themselves with the issues currently facing Sark. They are not. On 23rd November 2017 three bureaucrats from the UK Ministry of Justice travelled to Sark on a fact-finding mission. They began by summoning the Island’s state officials; the Seneschal, the Greffier, the Procurer and the speaker of Chief Pleas to meet with them. This was followed by a public meeting where the three unelected UK bureaucrats sought to address the people on how they should be conducting the Island’s internal affairs.
The public meeting was sparsely attended with only 20 or so Islanders bothering to turn up. However one resident, by questioning if and when the UK government would intervene in Sark’s affairs elicited a breathtakingly arrogant response from the Ministry of Justice head of the Crown Dependencies Team Elaine Cobb:
“At what point? If we think that there is a decline that is going to the point that the government will collapse for example, if we are literally looking at the numbers of resignations and everything and we are literally going to be down by 9 Conseillers by January 2019, theoretically if we were in that position, would it be, well it would seem appropriate, at that point I think, for the UK to say, right guys we need to do something about this. Whether that be, you know, as a preventative measure. There is no point in waiting until the thing goes off the rails before you actually do anything about it.”
The UK government has no authority to intervene in Sark. We have our own ‘parliament’, we raise our own taxes, we have our own court, our own judge and our own police force. The people of this Island have no representation, nor seek any representation within the UK government. We are a self-governing jurisdiction with a right to self-determination that can be traced back to the 16th century. However, the politicians, unelected lords and bureaucrats from the UK Ministry of Justice appear to have a problem grasping this simple indisputable fact.
We have recently learnt that the former Lord Chancellor has appointed the unelected Lord Keen of Elie as the minister with ‘special interest in the affairs of Sark.’ This announcement was accompanied with a thinly veiled threat that if we do not have a contested election in December of this year the MoJ will intervene. Just what shape or form that intervention would take remains a mystery.
The late Seigneur Michael Beaumont would not accept undue interference from ‘here today gone tomorrow’ UK Ministers of State for Justice and all indications are that neither will his son and heir. We have seen so many ministers come and go over the past ten years that it is difficult to take anything they say with anything more than a pinch of salt. Thankfully the people of Sark’s right to self-determination is not subject to the shifting sands of Westminster politics, it is enshrined within a perpetual Crown lease held by our Seigneur Major Christopher Beaumont.
9th February 2018
ONE-PARTY STATE APOLOGIST
BETTINA BORGFELD IS BACK
It was as predictable as it was inevitable. The exposure within the pages of this publication of the unelected Reginald Guille’s latest attempt to secure absolute power over the people of Sark was always going to release a torrent of one-party state propaganda against the Editor of the Sark Newspaper. Guille’s scheme to create a ‘super’ committee, combining the two most powerful committees within Sark’s wholly unelected parliament, Policy & Performance and Finance & Resources, has not gone smoothly.
In the past Guille would have simply told people what to do and his word would be sacrosanct. For years he bullied the ageing Seigneur Michael Beaumont into following his agenda of division and entrenchment. Today, because of the presence of a free press in Sark for the first time in 450 years, Guille's pursuit of power is subject to public scrutiny like never before. Guille and the one-party state activists within his family are not happy people.
The past few weeks have seen an upsurge in anonymous abusive emails received by the Editor of the Sark Newspaper. This comes as no surprise. Whenever the actions of the one-party state activists within the Guille family are exposed within the pages of the free press the Editor of the Sark Newspaper will come under attack. There is nothing new in this. Over the years there have been numerous attempts at silencing the Editor, Kevin Delaney, and his publication. These have included a threat by a partner of a member of Chief Pleas to shoot him, a vicious online campaign of abuse against him and his family, explosive devices placed outside of his offices, an Island-wide poster campaign portraying him as Adolf Hitler and numerous acts of criminal damage to his own personal property and that of the businesses under his management.
None of the above succeeded therefore an attempt by 51 ‘Islanders’ to enlist the Guernsey Law Officers and the Guernsey police to prosecute the Editor on a trumped-up charge of harassment was launched. This was dismissed out of hand when it was revealed that these were not ordinary members of the public but were in fact members and supporters of Sark’s one-party state trying to pass themselves off as the ordinary folk of Sark.
Not a single one of the acts of physical abuse, on line abuse or attempts to prosecute the Editor of the Sark Newspaper has ever been condemned by any of our past or present unelected would be politicians. No one has been arrested or prosecuted for the crimes committed against him.
Now, out of the woodwork, has crept the German journalist Bettina Borgfeld to once again stick her nose into the affairs of the people of Sark. Borgfeld has more than a passing acquaintance with the members and supporters of Sark’s one-party state, and in particular, the activists amongst the Guille family.
In August 2014 Borgfeld of the German company Filmtank came to Sark. She interviewed Mr Kevin Delaney, the Editor of the Sark Newspaper, in his capacity as CEO of Sark Estate Management Ltd, on the pretext that she was producing a balanced and impartial documentary reflecting the problems faced by small communities suffering economic decline. She claimed that she wanted to explore how such communities adapt and reinvent themselves, citing examples of towns and villages in Germany, where depopulation had caused the closure of shops, banks and post offices.
Borgfeld was being more than a little economical with the truth. Investigations revealed that she was in fact working in tandem with the Rosanne Guille Byrne who was taking a very active role in Borgfeld’s project. Mrs Guille Byrne, a former member of Sark’s sham parliament, is the niece of the unelected chief enforcer of Sark’s wholly unelected government, Reginald Guille. Both believe Sark to be ‘their’ Island and that this gives them an elevated status over other Islanders.
The Sark Newspaper has obtained a copy of a letter penned by the German journalist, Bettina Borgfeld, within which she launches her latest attempt to attack the Sark Newspaper and, in particular, its Editor Kevin Delaney. Borgfeld asserts in her letter that:
“Many islanders regarded, and continue to regard, content published by the Sark Newsletter and the Sark Newspaper as “defamatory. The democratic system on Sark is based essentially on voluntary and unpaid work. Some islanders regard the degree of intimidation resulting from defamatory content in these publications as a threat to the democratic process.”
One wonders what planet Bettina Borgfeld inhabits. There is no democratic system in Sark. The Island is ruled by unelected would-be politicians and state officials. In case Borgfeld’s infatuation with the Guille family and their control of Sark has addled her brain, the Sark Newspaper will spell out for her three simple yet indisputable facts.
· Not one member of Sark’s wholly unelected sham parliament has faced the electorate.
· Not one member of Sark’s wholly unelected sham parliament has received a single vote from the electorate.
· Not one member of Sark’s wholly unelected sham parliament has a mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf.
Unlike the Editor of the Sark Newspaper who has lived and worked in Sark since July 2007, Borgfeld has no choice but to frame her questions from afar and has to base them around propaganda peddled by one-party state activists amongst the Guille family. Writing from Hamburg she would do well to remember the views of her fellow countryman Joseph Goebbels in respect of one-party state propaganda.
As a journalist her duty is to challenge state propaganda not to accept it hook, line and sinker and regurgitate it as news. When defending Reginald Guille and the one-party state activists within his family, Borgfeld may wish to reflect on an edict he issued in January 2015 when he called for the Island to be ruled by and for the majority to the exclusion and detriment of minority groups. These are sentiments that resonate all too clearly with those expressed by another of her fellow countrymen in the 1930s during his rise to power.
Borgfeld’s clumsy and potentially defamatory ramblings from her home in Germany are not confined solely to attempting to undermine the existence of the free press in Sark. She seeks to further the cause of the one-party state activists within the Guille family by taking a blunderbuss approach to denigrating anything associated with the Editor of the Sark Newspaper. Attacking his and many of the Island builders’ work in refurbishing many of Sark’s decaying hotels, café’s bars and restaurants she asks if it was necessary given that she doubts that:
“...tourists with exclusive standards would travel to Sark in commercially relevant numbers, given the inclement weather there that lasts for months, the muddy streets and the general mid-range standard.”
Businesses struggling to survive in Sark will no doubt be hoping that the delusional Bettina Borgfeld keeps her thoughts on this matter to herself when she releases what she claims will be a feature-length cinema documentary about our beautiful and unique Island. Borgfeld, like Reginald Guille and his niece Rosanne, have nothing to offer the people of Sark other than a perverse ideology of division and entrenchment reminiscent of 1930s Germany.
2nd February 2018
UNREGULATED TAX HAVEN CASTS A DARK
SHADOW OVER THE BAILIWICK OF GUERNSEY
In early December there was jubilation in Guernsey because the Island was not placed on the EU Commission’s "black list" of uncooperative jurisdictions. Little was, however, made of the fact that Guernsey was instead put on notice - on a "grey list".
At the time, The Guardian reported that “jurisdictions with links to the UK – Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, along with Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man – have been placed on a so-called “grey list” who have committed to reform their tax structures to ensure, for example, that firms are not simply using their 0% corporate tax rates to shield their profits”. Click here to read
Guernsey had little cause for the jubilation expressed at that time in the local media because it is now under intense pressure to show the EU, in time for the periodical inspection promised in some four months from now, that criticisms have been taken on board and acted upon as part of the international community’s on-going clamp-down on tax evasion and financial crime.
The local media has attempted to bury the Tax Justice Network’s "Financial Secrecy Index", published this week, despite the fact that Guernsey has been found to be the 10th most secretive jurisdiction in the world, well ahead of Jersey (18th), the BVIs (16th) and even Panama (12th).
How on earth could Guernsey, a jurisdiction which has signed up to all international information exchange agreements, whilst bending over backwards to comply with all and any new regulations be labelled the world’s 10th most secretive tax haven?
The answer is simple. By "Guernsey" the outside world means "the Bailiwick of Guernsey". The Island of Guernsey, the Island of Alderney and the Island of Sark, in the international community’s view (the OECD, the EU Commission or the Tax Justice Network) is seen as one single entity - as highlighted in the report excerpts on the page opposite.
Sark is a tax haven whatever definition you apply, whether the OECD’s or the pressure group called Tax Justice Network. The fact is, Sark has no tax transparency whatsoever because the Island does not collect any data and its tax system is based on ownership of Sark property and a personal capital tax which is minimal and voluntary in that no declarations are checked. There is no company law and consequently there are, officially that is, no Sark companies.
In spite of this, two major high street banks, HSBC and NatWest, operate branches on the Island, to service the needs, on the face of it, of Sark’s less than 390 residents, the majority of whom are no longer economically active and a handful of local small businesses. HSBC and NatWest have never been charitable organisations. They would never operate branches which do not generate a healthy profit. There is more to Sark than meets the eye.
The Hansard has just been published for the Extraordinary meeting of the Island’s unelected sham parliament on 17th December 2017. During that meeting it was stated that in its hunt for a new Island treasurer the committee in charge of finances had approached the “three or four” highly qualified accountants residing in Sark. None of whom were willing to work for the £40 an hour offered, as the ‘going rate’ in Guernsey is £500 - £700 an hour. In addition to two high street banks, Sark, with a handful of small businesses and a population of less than 390 souls, most of whom are elderly, has in its midst “three or four” accountants who, since they can command £500 - £700 an hour, consider £40 an hour to be charitable work (see pages 16 and 19 of Hansard Extraordinary Chief Pleas 07/12/17 here ).
Clearly this Island is far from the backwater community of subsistence farmers and fishermen that it portrays itself to be.
In the tax haven of Sark, nothing and no one is what they appear to be. People with no visible income go on multiple foreign holidays every year and send their children to expensive UK boarding schools.
In its narrative report on Guernsey, the Tax Justice Network quite rightly highlights the ‘Sark Lark’. A practice which, far from eradicated, is still providing individuals who are happy to exploit Sark’s special constitutional and geographical position for personal gain with substantial amounts of untaxed and undeclared money. Individuals for whom the £10,000 per year per directorship is far more important than the international community’s efforts to stop tax evasion, money laundering, financing of terrorism and the many other financial crimes that you can think of and who are totally unconcerned about the devastating damage their activities are inflicting on the Bailiwick of Guernsey as a whole.
The "International Tax Transparency Statement" issued by Sark’s sham parliament (see here) is as insincere as it is laughable. As shown by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ "offshore leaks" database, and the associated www.opencorporates.com (see overleaf) as well as the UK company register, Sark’s governance and administration is absolutely riddled with people closely associated with the shady world of unregulated "offshore financial services". The Island’s tax assessor, Simon Boyd de Carteret, is shown to be deeply involved, along with, to mention but a few, unelected members of parliament like Paul Williams, Sandra Williams, Alan Blythe and William Raymond. Even court officials like deputy judge Ewan de Carteret, Greffier Trevor Hamon, or state officials such as former treasurer Wendy Kiernan and the committee secretary Caroline Robins have all jumped onto the lucrative "gravy train" of offshore financial services, operated well below the radar of international regulators. Benefiting on the side-line was the unelected Reginald Guille who is now in the process of setting himself up as the controller of Sark’s new "super" committee and Sark’s international spokesman. Guille who when sitting as Island judge collected large sums of money in the form of notary fees for registering thousands of directorships, many of which were held by members of his family.
The Tax Justice Network is right to highlight the existence of the "Sark Lark". It never went away, it just morphed into ever more elaborate schemes designed to evade the taxman in other jurisdictions, whilst making money for Sark’s unelected and self-elevated ‘elite’. Then as now, that ‘elite’ controls the decision-making process which perpetuates the status quo - perpetuates the absolute secrecy which enables them to continue operating lucrative but unregulated ‘offshore financial services’ undisturbed by inconvenient issues such as transparency, law obedience and common decency. They are, in short, ensuring that the Island of Sark remains a tax haven in every sense.
What can Guernsey do about it? Nothing. Although constitutionally Sark is a separate jurisdiction, the Bailiwick of Guernsey is one entity in the international community’s eyes, despite Guernsey having no right to any say in Sark’s governance. Moreover, there will be many skeletons lurking in the ‘Sark Lark’ cupboard, which may well explain why successive Guernsey governments continue to pay Sark some £2 million a year in hidden subsidies, no strings attached - not even adherence to financial regulations.
25th January 2018
ELECTED BY NO ONE,
REPRESENTING NO ONE
Reginald Guille has not been elected by the people of this Island. This is an indisputable fact. He has not faced the electorate. Not one Islander has cast a vote for Guille in a ballot box. He has no mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf. He represents entrenchment and division at a time when Sark, if it is to survive as an autonomous jurisdiction, needs to embrace the inclusion and engagement that our Seigneur Major Christopher Beaumont has called for.
Guille amassed considerable personal wealth as a key player in the infamous ‘Sark Lark’. For over a decade he reigned supreme as the Island’s judge and the president of Sark’s sham parliament. He used his powers to facilitate directorships for favoured Islanders who were signatories for companies that no one in Sark had the slightest idea of what the companies were doing. Who knows what criminals, be they drug dealers, illegal arms dealers, fraudsters, or money launderers, have been welcomed into Sark with open arms for the sole purpose of Guille and a select few Islanders’ personal enrichment? They have been only too happy to prostitute Sark as the worldwide epicentre for unregulated financial services.
By taking advantage of the ailing health of the late Michael Beaumont at a time when the late Seigneur’s time was dedicated more and more to caring for his wife Diana, Guille assumed the role as the de facto ruler of Sark. Under Guille the Island has become his own personal one-party state; a jurisdiction where the will of the bullying Reginald Guille takes precedence over the wants and rights of each and every citizen.
Having been stripped through the courts of the immense powers that saw him reign supreme as the Island’s judge and the president of Sark’s sham parliament, he is now spending his time manoeuvring and scheming to create a ‘super’ committee. This committee will ensure that control of Sark remains in his hands and not that of the only legitimate holder of power in Sark, Major Christopher Beaumont. To many, it beggars belief that Guille has got away with his dominance of Chief Pleas by using his bullying tactics for so long, but he has never been short of greedy self-serving disciples to his cause. On the page opposite is a list of Sark state officials and unelected would-be politicians that stand as testimony to the toxic legacy of Guille and his self-serving power mongers. Guille and his fellow purveyors of unregulated financial services would have it that the Island is populated by indigenous farmers who can trace their roots back to the original settlement of Sark in 1565. In truth Sark is held in the iron grip of greedy self-serving individuals who make the wolves of Wall Street look like benign philanthropists.
In last week’s edition of the Sark Newspaper we reported on a series of communications from the Lord Chancellor naming Lord Keen of Elie as the minister with a special interest in the affairs of Sark. We were told that Lord Keen wants to see:
“….good government of Sark and to ensure the ability of the government to deliver key quality public services, in particular education, health and social care and policing and sustain a viable economy and essential lifeline connectivity.”
Commendable objectives, but Lord Keen needs to start going to bed early and spending his time reading up on how the one-party state of Sark operates if he wants to understand why he is merely ‘whistling in the wind’. He should avail himself of how the bloc vote determines who is and who isn’t allowed into the Island’s sham parliament. He might also take the time to reflect on how it is possible for an Island of less than 350 adult residents to sustain the presence of two high street banks: HSBC and NatWest.
We are told that the Ministry of Justice sees the up and coming elections in December of this year as being:
“….a valuable opportunity to measure increased engagement and confidence in Chief Pleas; a key indicator being the success of the election.”
The people of Sark have never had the opportunity to vote in democratic elections. Whilst Guille and his fellow unelected would-be politicians remain in control, they never will. Guille et al are elected by no one and represent no one, bar themselves and their own self-interests.
19th January 2018
REVERSING ANTI-BUSINESS LEGISLATION IS THE ROUTE TO ECONOMIC GROWTH
If Sark is to have a future we need immediate action to reverse the damage caused by the Island’s unelected would-be politicians. This is a simple statement of fact; something that all stakeholders in the Island’s future fully understand. It is not however something that our unelected would-be politicians are willing to face up to. During this week’s meeting of the Island's wholly unelected parliament, Chief Pleas, Reginald Guille was to be found calling for more even more anti-business legislation:
“I wish to ask a question with regards to empty properties and fairer taxation. Can the Finance & Resources Committee tell me why there has been no movement on taxing empty properties at a much higher rate to encourage the owners to fill the empty properties?”
“In this regard I wish to see taxation, tax action, taken against empty commercial properties also. In my view there is no reason why this should not have happened already. After all the hotels and other homes that have been empty for several years now and I believe that something should be sorted in time for the 2019 budgets.”
The catalogue of anti-business legislation, listed on pages 4 and 5 of this publication, is testimony to the years of attacks by the Island’s unelected would-be politicians on the private sector in Sark. Guille is only too happy to see this continuing. The statistics below bear witness to the results of nine years of economic ethnic cleansing:
• Year-round residents down 40%.
• Land and property prices down 30%.
• Employment down 70%.
• Children attending Sark’s school down 40%.
• Building sector activity down 60%.
• Hotel bed-stock down 66%.
• Retail space let down 55%.
• Property tax up by 116%.
• Direct taxes up by 52%.
Thankfully we have a Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, who is saying that ‘enough is enough’ and is set to lead us away from the path of self-destruction that Guille would have us continue to travel. The people of Sark want to know what the future hold for them. Are we set for yet more years of one party state entrenchment and economic decline as advocated by Reginald Guille and his ultra-orthodox hardliners? Or are we to respond to our Seigneur’s call for a bright and prosperous future, built on engagement with all stakeholders in the Island's future?
Christopher Beaumont, a man with a wealth of experience in the real world, has already demonstrated a grasp of many of the issues that we need to resolve if we are to rebuild the Island’s economy. He has called for the repopulation of the Island from the current 390 year-round residents to increase to 800 up to 1,000. This will happen by making Sark an ever more desirable place to visit and to live. Sark’s tourism industry is the Island’s principal economic driver. There have been tens of millions of pounds of inward investment into this sector in recent years, but the economy has yet to benefit because our unelected would-be politicians continue to obstruct the introduction of a Customs post that would open the Island to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe.
When this obstacle to economic growth is finally removed we will need to ensure that Sark offers a world-renowned welcome to the tourists who come to visit us. The Seigneur has rightly called for the Island’s waste disposal plant to be relocated away from the harbour. This must be complemented by the resurfacing of the Harbour Hill and The Avenue. The Seigneur has called for the possible introduction of electric vehicles as an alternative to the 100 + tractors that tear up our roads whilst spewing out noxious diesel fumes.
Land reform will ensure that those who come to repopulate and live in Sark can aspire to home ownership; something that is currently only possible for cash buyers.
Our Seigneur’s vision of engagement or the hardliners plans for yet more years of entrenchment? Either way, reversing anti-business legislation is the only route to economic growth.
11th January 2018
IS 2018 SET TO BE YET ANOTHER WASTED YEAR?
With only 11 weeks to go until the start of the tourism season it is looking increasingly likely that 2018 is going to become yet another wasted year for Sark’s economy. Nothing has changed and nothing looks set to change. To date there is no evidence that the Island’s principal economic driver, its tourism industry, is to be given the tools to go out and do the job of creating employment, attracting inward investment and begin the task of reversing the impact of ten years of state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing.
Is 2018 is going to be another year where the ‘dark forces’, a phrase coined by Sébastien Moerman when referring to the ultra-orthodox extremists amongst Sark’s wholly unelected sham parliament, continue to obstruct the liberation of the Island’s tourism sector and hold off the introduction of a Customs post for at least another 12 months? Whilst our domestic competitors in Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Herm fully utilise every avenue available to them to promote and support their tourism industries, the ‘dark forces’ within Sark’s wholly unelected parliament continue to enforce the self-imposed isolation that has caused the stagnation and decline of our own tourism sector.
No case can be made against the cost/benefit of introducing a Customs post. France has one of the world’s largest economies. Its purchasing power parity (PPP) is the 10th in the world. It has a GDP of $2.6 trillion, some $40,000 per capita. These are the very people who the ‘dark forces’ would have us believe offer no economic benefit to Sark.
A Customs post, manned by professionally trained local residents, would allow visitors from the west coast of France and beyond to travel directly into Sark, with an average journey time of a little over an hour. It would immediately trigger the reopening of all of Sark’s hotels, restaurants, cafés and bars; businesses operated by a variety of owners both large and small. These are businesses that remain closed as a direct result of being starved of trade. Without direct access to new continental markets capital projects such as the Beauregard golf course and leisure complex will remain on the drawing board, rather than becoming a reality and providing a myriad of high value works packages for Sark’s beleaguered building industry.
In 2018 alone the ‘dark forces’ within the Island’s wholly unelected parliament will starve Sark’s economy of circa £5 million. To put this in the context of the Island’s economy, government expenditure in Sark for 2018 is budgeted at £1.36 million.
This will not concern the ‘dark forces’ within the Island’s wholly unelected parliament. They are interested in only what Sark can do for them, not what they can do for the people of Sark. They are driven by self-interest and a lust for the very power that furthers their own personal agenda. Despite having not faced the electorate, having not received a single vote and having no mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf, members of the Island’s sham government take taxpayers money that they are entrusted with by the people of Sark and distribute it amongst themselves by means of state-funded employment and patronage.
Unelected would-be politicians including Antony Dunks, Paul Williams, Edric Baker, Peter Byrne, and Cormac Scott are all beneficiaries of paid employment from the public purse. Sandra Williams receives state patronage by way of her tenancy of the Island Hall, a public house and café business for which there is no public record of her ever paying a penny in rent. To add insult to injury she receives an annual taxpayer-funded subsidy to her business of £8,000. Williams runs her hospitality business in direct competition with the rest of the Island’s tourism operators, over which she has an unsurmountable advantage courtesy of her chairmanship of Sark’s tourism committee and the Island’s shipping committee.
The ‘dark forces’ rally to the colours of the unelected member of parliament Reginald Guille. Guille pocketed undisclosed sums of money, estimated to be hundreds of thousands of pounds, in notary fees for unregulated offshore directorships during his joint tenure as the Island’s judge and president of Chief Pleas. He is, for reasons known only to him, determined to drive the Island’s economy down to a point where we have no economic strength to defend our unique autonomous status. Guille’s last stand, as locals see it, will, if left unchecked, result in the loss of our independence and our right to self-determination. In next week’s Chief Pleas he will make yet another bid to sate his insatiable lust for power. Guille and others are proposing the amalgamation of the two most powerful committees, Policy & Performance and Finance & Resources into one ‘super’ committee, Policy & Finance. Ominously the chairman of this ‘senior’ committee, will be given an exclusive mandate to speak to the outside world on behalf of Chief Pleas. Who would doubt it will be anyone other than Guille?
On current evidence Sark looks set for another wasted year. One of lost opportunities, deeper entrenchment by Guille and his ‘dark forces’ and further unchecked economic decline.
5th January 2018
12 WEEKS REMAIN TO CHANGE THE ISLAND’S FORTUNES
In last week’s edition of the Sark Newspaper Dawn Manger, Group Manager of Sark Estate Management Ltd, reflected on the reasons behind the company’s decision to pay all outstanding taxes to the Sark exchequer. Confirming that she had also elected to pay all of her own outstanding personal taxes Ms Manger said:
“I believe that we must all get behind our Seigneur and work together to rebuild the economy and I would not want the withholding of SEM’s taxes or my own taxes to be a distraction to the task ahead of us.”
Reflecting on Ms Manger's comments I find myself agreeing with her reasoning and have therefore elected to settle all of my own outstanding personal taxes.
It is 16 weeks since this publication chose to adopt a fresh editorial stance. A change of direction that surprised many but has since been universally welcomed. On 15th September 2017, sensing a desire for change in the air, the Sark Newspaper posed a straightforward question to the Seigneur:
“Better to be the feudal lord of a prosperous Sark than a failed State?”
It was an important question to ask. After all, as we observed at the time:
“The future of Sark is in Christopher Beaumont’s hands.”
Over the past four months the Seigneur has made it clear that he has no intention of allowing Sark to become a failed state. His keynote speech to the Sark Chamber of Commerce on 12th December 2017, was preceded a month earlier by a visit to Brecqhou with the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey and myself. He has shown that he is a man of conviction, who is determined to lead from the front. Indeed, he has demonstrated more leadership in the past few months than we have seen from any of our unelected would-be politicians over the past decade.
Not for the first time, this publication has shown itself to be ahead of events in both its editorial stance and its reporting. Looking forward to the year ahead, I predict that it will take a herculean effort to reverse a decade of state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing. My primary concern is that the emergence of Christopher Beaumont as a competent and able leader may be too little, too late. I can see no evidence that any real measures are being taken to stimulate the economy and begin the process of repopulating the Island.
Editor of the Sark Newspaper
29th December 2017
13 WEEKS TO OPEN UP SARK TO THE VAST
TOURISM MARKETS OF MAINLAND EUROPE
We may only just be about to welcome in the new year but it is a sobering thought that in 13 weeks’ time the 2018 tourist season will begin. The figures just released by the Sark Tourism Committee demonstrate that, if we do not have a Customs post in place by Easter, we will see yet another year of economic decline in Sark.
The number of visitors coming to the Island via Guernsey has stagnated at below 50,000 per annum. Last year’s figure of 47,034 includes, as does all previous years’ figures, trips made by Sark residents to and from Guernsey. The actual net annual figure of tourists carried by the state-owned shipping company is considerably below 45,000. It is inconceivable that Sark’s tourism industry, the Island’s principal economic driver, can survive on these pitiful volumes of trade. It is essential that we open up the Island to the vast markets of mainland Europe by having a Customs post in place by the time that the new season begins in April.
It is something that our unelected would be politicians have resolutely refused to do, but this is hardly surprising. Our unelected parliament is riddled with individuals who have prostituted Sark’s unique status in the world as a self-legislating independent state by providing ‘no questions asked’ unregulated financial services. The “Sark Lark” that has handsomely enriched so many of our would-be politicians has removed the incentive for productive economic activity.
This is all set to change. Our would-be politicians may be determined to let the Island’s tourism industry sink without trace but not our new Seigneur. He had no compunction about tackling the subject of a Customs presence here in Sark in his recent speech to the Island’s Chamber of Commerce:
“So, the question is can we do it? And the other question for me is do we need to do it? Could we be outside? Could we be a separate entity altogether? We might be able to do that. We might not."
The Seigneur’s acknowledgment that he is considering the prospect of us going it alone and taking control of our own borders shows that all options are on the table. This publication has long advocated Sark having its own Customs post staffed by professionally trained local residents. As well as creating much needed employment it would make a bold statement to those in the States of Guernsey and in Westminster who our own unelected would-be politicians continually allow to meddle in our affairs.
Our own Customs post would open up our struggling tourism industry to huge new markets by allow visitors from the continent to travel directly to and from Sark from the west coast of France. The figures above show how tourists coming to Sark via Jersey on services provided by the French ferry operator Manche Iles have grown by 27% over the past four years. This merely hints at the potential volume of trade that we can expect to attract when the Island finally ends our unelected would-be politicians’ policy of self-imposed isolation.
Our own professionally trained Customs officers will play a critical role in maintaining the security of Sark and that of its residents. Currently anyone can come to Sark and, no questions asked, find a property owner willing to let a room or even an entire property to them. Provided they hand over their rent, often in untraceable cash, they can live here without anyone knowing who they are or where they have come from. We live in a troubled and often dangerous world and our unelected would-be politicians cavalier policies in respect of our security are clearly unfit for purpose.
Incredibly they place more importance on keeping a record of the dogs on Sark than collecting and maintaining data on who is actually living here. They demand to know the name of any dog along with the names of both its mother and father. They place great importance on knowing the breed and colour of the animal as well as its age. In the case of a male they insist on being informed of its ability to father any offspring or in the case of a female, the ability to become pregnant. Previous criminal behaviour must be disclosed, in particular any assaults on humans or other dogs. For good measure a detailed description of the animal’s appearance is required along with details of the address where the dog is to live, including the full postcode.
This attention to meaningless detail demonstrates that our unelected would-be politicians are in a state of paralysis. They are obstructing the proper governance of Sark at a time when we need the kind of leadership shown by Seigneur Christopher Beaumont in his recent speech to the Island’s Chamber of Commerce. A bold approach is needed if we are to avoid another year of economic decline that, if allowed to happen, will result in more unemployment leading to further depopulation that we can ill afford. We have 13 weeks to save Sark’s economy and we need to use this time to cast aside the restrictions placed on our tourisms sector by our unelected would-be politicians and have a Customs post up and running by the beginning of the season.
The alternative is unthinkable. Another year of more businesses boarded up than open, several million pounds that should be flowing through the Island’s economy lost forever and yet another year of economic decline.
14th December 2017
SARK IS THE JEWEL OF THE
Sark is the jewel of the Crown Dependencies, but it will only remain so if we are financially and economically independent. To do so we must reverse the damage done to the Island’s economy by would-be politicians who have inflicted nine years of economic ethnic cleansing on the people of Sark.
On Tuesday evening the Island’s Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, shared his vision of how this could be achieved in a presentation to members and guests of Sark’s Chamber of Commerce. It was a wide-ranging speech which had something for everyone. Chief Pleas, the Sark Newspaper and the Chamber of Commerce were all subjected to challenges by Christopher Beaumont. However, in the main, his message was one of unification; building allegiances with those who are willing to help Sark, including Brecqhou, and a desire to turn the fortunes of the Island around, as soon as is humanly possible.
8th December 2017
SEIGNEUR CHRISTOPHER BEAUMONT: THE PROTECTOR OF OUR EXTRAORDINARY AUTONOMY
The Chief Pleas of Sark, the Island’s parliament, is not sovereign. It is a creation of statute and governed by statute, namely, the Reform Law of 2008, which itself derives legal status from the Order in Council. Chief Pleas has only limited powers to make local laws without reference to London and even these laws can be struck down if deemed to be ultra vires - beyond the limited powers held by Sark’s parliament.
Thank goodness our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, has real significant powers that are his, and his alone, courtesy of a Crown Lease that confers on him and him alone ownership of Sark’s constitution and jurisdiction. These powers, vested in one private individual, are unequalled in the western world. For Sark to have a future, he will need to be ever vigilant to ensure that his Island continues to maintain its independence, its autonomy and its right to self-determination.
The Seigneur no longer has the power of veto over ordinances made by the Chief Pleas. For that reason, the Island’s wholly unelected parliament, dominated by self-serving members such as Reginald Guille, Edric Baker and Charles Maitland, is free to pass new laws to incriminate innocent people and create ever more regulations which will further add to the Island’s economic decline. Nevertheless, thanks to his Crown Lease, the Seigneur has very substantial over-riding powers and intangible assets, the power and value of which cannot be qualified and with which come the responsibility of being the sole custodian of the future of his Island of Sark and his people. It is clear that it will take considerable effort and determination by Christopher Beaumont to ensure that his Island has a future and that his people are given every opportunity to make Sark a success, economically, financially, socially and demographically.
The question remains, how to achieve it? The Island’s economy cannot be allowed to sink any lower. The population is in decline and there is no prospect of this decline being reversed until Sark is opened up to the continent of Europe to enable a viable and sustainable tourist industry to create desperately needed jobs. The Island needs this as a matter of the utmost urgency so as to build a strong economy and a prosperous future. Land and property prices are at rock bottom, so much so that it is now all but impossible to sell a property of any kind. It is now vitally important to allow, urgently, any property, whether freehold or leasehold, to be mortgaged in Sark. Only the lender will decide how much he will lend against a property or parcel of land, but the important thing is this will deliver a desperately needed kick start to the Island’s economy.
It will allow first-time buyers, in the main young men, women and their families to get a foot on the housing ladder. It will also allow property owners to borrow money against their assets which they can spend on themselves and their homes or, if they so wish, lend or gift it to their children. This is a process that puts money back into the economy and in turn helps to stabilise and increase the population of the Island. It is of critical importance because we want young men, women and their families to stay; we want them to live, work and build a life for themselves here in Sark.
We are a low-cost jurisdiction and as such we must set ourselves the objective of abolishing all direct taxation in Sark. This should begin with an immediate reduction and the subsequent abolition of the new property tax. It is a simple economic fact that lower taxes allow people to spend more of their money on what they, and not the state, want to spend it on.
This additional cash in people’s pockets will circulate around the economy many times over. In the first instance it will feed into the Island’s shops, restaurants, cafés and bars. This will, in turn, result in increased revenues for utility suppliers of electricity, gas, oil and coal, as well as shipping and freight services supplied by the Isle of Sark Shipping Company and the carters who deliver all goods landed on the Sark quay onward to businesses and homes across the Island.
With increased volumes of trade come profits which can and will be reinvested into maintaining and refurbishing the Island’s various hospitality and retail establishments. This will deliver a much-needed boost to Sark’s beleaguered construction sector, which is second only to tourism as the Island’s main employer.
The task of rebuilding Sark’s economy must begin now if we are to support our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, in his duty to protect our independence, our autonomy and our right to self-determination.
Whereas our unelected would-be politicians have spent the past nine years destroying our economy, we must begin the process of rebuilding it. No jurisdiction can realistically hope to survive a 40% depopulation in less than a decade. We must reverse the results of years of Sark’s state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing and make the Island attractive to men and women of working age and their families to come here and repopulate the Island.
What a task our unelected would-be politicians have left our Seigneur. They have left him more vulnerable to interference from outside jurisdictions than at any time in the Island’s entire history, by driving our economy into the ground at a time when we should have been building our financial might so as to protect our most precious asset, our right to self-determination. For nine years the members of Sark’s one ruling party state have enjoyed a free rein to pursue whatever policies they wished. They faced no opposition whatsoever from within their own sham parliament, no compromising on ideas or watering down of policies. They have willingly and knowingly driven the Island to the dire state in which it finds itself in today:
· The number of year-round residents is down by 40%.
· Land and property prices are down 30%.
· Employment is down 70%.
· The number of children attending Sark’s school is down 40%.
· Building sector activity is down by 60%.
· The Island’s hotel bed-stock is down 66%.
· Retail space let is down by 55%.
· Property tax has risen by 116%.
We must halt this decline immediately if we are to protect our autonomous status. Our unelected would-be politicians cannot be allowed to continue to lead us down this path to ruin. It can stop now, but only if Seigneur Christopher Beaumont’s determination to halt and reverse the years of economic decline can be communicated to inward investors. Only then can the process of rebuilding Sark’s economy and repopulating the Island begin.
The time has come to identify and work with our allies, people who share the same belief in Sark’s need to protect the Island’s autonomous status, its independence and its right to self-determination. We make a grave mistake if we believe that outside political forces are our allies. They can be friends, they may offer advice at times, some of it worthwhile, some of it not, but their motives must always be challenged and questioned. In the matter of our constitution and jurisdiction they need to be told in no uncertain terms where they stand and, more importantly, where we stand.
We are on the edge of Europe but we are not controlled by Europe and are not subject to the endless stream of laws and legislation to which the citizens of the European Union are. We have no representation in the European Parliament, nor do we seek or want any such representation.
We are a British Crown Dependency, protected by the UK but not subject to the laws and legislation to which the people of the UK must adhere. We have no representation in Westminster, nor do we seek or want any such representation.
We are part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey but are not subject to the laws and legislation to which the rest of the people of the Bailiwick are bound. We have no representation in the States of Guernsey, the Island’s parliament, nor do we seek or want any such representation.
Sark’s independence, our right to self-determination and our autonomous status are guaranteed by our Seigneur Major Christopher Beaumont’s ownership of the Island’s constitution and jurisdiction - a right that can trace its legitimacy back to Helier de Carteret’s settlement of Sark in 1565.
It is now time for the Island to come together to build our economic strength. We will only do that by attracting and welcoming the inward investment we need.
It is not uncommon for business and the state to work together on major infrastructure projects. The Sark Newspaper has it on good authority that Brecqhou’s owners would like to help Sark. They have shown an interest in helping create a gateway into the Island worthy of a unique 21st century tourist destination. This would entail resurfacing the road from the harbour and through to the Avenue, cutting much of the undergrowth on each side of the Harbour Hill away. Good news for the people of Sark, but it is difficult to see any plans for such regeneration projects coming to fruition whilst our unelected would-be politicians continue to attack Sark’s property and business owners through targeted taxation.
THREE STEPS TO TRANSFORM
SARK’S ECONOMIC FUTURE
The autonomy of this Island is unique and unparalleled in the western world. However, it will not survive if we are not financially independent and able to keep ourselves from seeking financial assistance from the UK government or the States of Guernsey. There is no future in Sark being stuck in the dark ages. We must understand that we are a consumer-led economy, based primarily on our tourism industry, and use this to build the economic strength we will need in the years ahead to protect our unique rights and privileges.
These are ours courtesy of the Crown Lease held by our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. His ownership of Sark’s constitution and jurisdiction guarantees that we are free from the endless stream of rules and regulations that pour out of Brussels, the UK and Guernsey. We are geographically on the edge of Europe, just 20 miles off the west coast of France, but not controlled by Europe. We are outside the jurisdiction of the British Parliament. We are part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey but the States of Guernsey have no authority over our Seigneur, his Island or his people.
We are fortunate that our independence, our right to self-determination and our continued existence as an autonomous state is under the stewardship and protection of our Seigneur. We must work with him to rebuild our economy and to ensure that we are financially independent and do not have to go cap in hand to the UK or Guernsey just to survive.
Three things are key to us building our economic strength and in doing so protecting our independence and right to self-determination. What Sark needs with immediate effect is land reform, lowering of taxes and the opening up of its tourism industry to the vast markets of mainland Europe.
Land reform is necessary so that people can raise a mortgage to buy a home in Sark. The current system of property and landholding is unacceptable in this day and age. It is discriminatory, favoring the haves over the have nots, and stifles economic growth. At the moment only cash buyers can purchase a property here. This is at odds with the rest of the western world, where it is necessary only to be able to raise a deposit of 5% to 10% of the property value to get a foot on the housing ladder.
The ability to be able to raise money against a property will bring enormous relief to existing home owners in Sark, many of whom are elderly asset rich, cash poor individuals who are struggling to make ends meet. For others, the ability to raise money against their properties will allow them to carry out essential repairs and to upgrade the quality of their homes.
There is no reason at all why changing the laws on leases so that they would satisfy the lending criteria of high street banks should not be given statutory recognition in Sark law. They exist already as a matter of Sark common law. Leases were not brought into existence in English law by a statute, they evolved in common law. Statutes were passed centuries later to regulate leases and to create new forms of lease. The same process can occur in Sark too.
As to mortgages, this power has been on the Sark statue book since the Real Property Law of 2007 but the necessary ordinance has never been drafted.
Putting property ownership within the reach of working men and women is essential if we are to repopulate the Island. Since December 2008 we have seen the number of year-round resident’s plummet from 650 to a little under 390 today. This represents a catastrophic 40% drop in the population which is simply unsustainable. We need to make Sark an attractive place to work and live for young men, women and families but this will never happen whilst the prospect of buying a home on the Island remains an impossibility for all but the few who have the means to make a cash purchase.
By allowing existing home owners to borrow money against their properties, land reform will deliver a welcome boost to the Island’s building industry. This sector is second only to tourism in terms of the number of Islanders it employs and it has suffered in line with every other sector as a result of the collapse in the Island’s economy. A short walk around the Island quickly reveals the lamentable state of much of Sark’s housing stock.
There is much work waiting to be done but unless homeowners are free to raise money against their properties to finance home improvements and essential repairs, this work will simply not happen.
The people of Sark must be given the right to buy their own homes and they must be given the right to raise a mortgage against Sark property. This is something that can and must happen without further delay.
No nation in history has ever taxed its way to prosperity and Sark is no exception to the rule. The people of Sark have seen their direct taxes rise by 52% since December 2008 and their property tax by a staggering 116%. At the same time employment has fallen by 70%, land and property prices have fallen by 30% and the Island’s population has declined by 40%. Clearly this is not sustainable. It is glaringly obvious that each and every one of these trends needs to be reversed and this can only be achieved by having more taxpayers, not higher taxes.
For Sark to repopulate and attract taxpaying men and women to the Island, it needs businesses and jobs. These will only come about if we welcome the inward investment that is required to stimulate and grow our economy. We are competing with the rest of the world for such inward investment. Our competitors are only to aware that to attract businesses and create employment they have to work hard at it, it does not come as a given. We will only attract inward investment if we are a welcoming jurisdiction that is open for business.
We can’t currently afford to offer government grants like other jurisdictions do to attract inward investment, businesses and jobs but our relatively low-cost base can make it attractive and rewarding for investors to direct their investment into us rather than any number of our competitors. We will only attract more businesses and jobs if we reduce the ever-growing tax burden on businesses. Sark has no manufacturing industry to speak of. We are a consumer-led economy and depend on Islanders and visitors to spend money in our shops, hotels, restaurants, cafés and bars to raise money for the public purse. The more people who live here and the more holiday makers we attract, the more we can reduce our own direct taxes and property taxes. This will leave more money in people’s pockets to spend in the Island.
In any consumer-led economy there is one indisputable fact: reduce taxes and you will increase consumer spending. If we continue to opt for higher taxes from less taxpayers, the catastrophic economic decline which we are experiencing will continue, threatening our ability to function as a self-legislating autonomous state. Our competitors are all battling to attract investment and are willing to offer all manner of incentives to entice investors to their shores. We have to use whatever resources we have available to attract investment into Sark and ever lower taxation is the most cost-effective resource we have.
NEW MARKETS FOR TOURISM
Tourism is one of the world’s fastest expanding industries. More people are employed in hospitality and retail than any other industry. In Sark our tourism industry is our principal economic driver, yet the sector is prevented from reaching anywhere near its true potential because of our unelected would-be politicians’ constant efforts to undermine it. Instead of getting behind the Island’s hospitality businesses and supporting them, they have spent the past nine years attacking huge swathes of the industry to the point where only two of the Island's six hotels open for the short summer season and 55% of our retail space sits empty.
The fortunes of our tourism sector can be transformed overnight by the introduction of our own Customs post. This can be manned by local officers trained by Guernsey’s border control staff, creating much needed jobs on Sark. The local knowledge brought to the roles by Sark Customs officers will be invaluable in determining who is on and who is off Sark. It will allow us to understand who lives here and who only claims to live here and uses Sark as a mailing address.
A Customs post will at the very least put us on an even keel with our competitors across the other Channel Islands. At the moment, they are all waking up to the huge potential presented by the tourism markets of mainland Europe. Jersey alone attracted over 250,000 people in 2017 from this ever-growing source of new visitors. We would need to attract only a fraction of this number to transform our tourism industry and see all of the shops, hotels, restaurants, cafés and bars which are currently closed reopen for next season.
Doing nothing is not an option. A Customs post will send out a vital message to all stakeholders in Sark. It will make a bold statement that the Island welcomes new investment along with the businesses and jobs that come with it. It would show that we are determined to protect our independence, our right to self-determination and our autonomy.
Three simple steps; land reform, lower taxes and new markets for tourism can and will secure our economic future, but we must act now.
24th November 2017
WHAT FUTURE FOR SARK UNDER OUR NEW SEIGNEUR?
The new Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, is a man who should not be underestimated. Since inheriting the powers and responsibilities that come with the ownership of Sark’s constitution and jurisdiction, he has taken time to understand his new role before making any public statements of where he wants to lead his Island and his people.
The Seigneur has inherited a divided community. Clear divisions exist between "the haves and the have nots", the employed and the unemployed, the financially independent and those who live on or below the poverty line. The perilous level to which Sark’s unelected would-be politicians have allowed our economy to sink means that the only way for Sark is up. For our economy to sink any lower is unthinkable. If it were allowed to do so, our independence, our right to self-determination, indeed our future as an autonomous jurisdiction, would be at risk.
Unlike our unelected would-be politicians, Christopher Beaumont has power and authority, courtesy of a Crown Lease which carries the weight of its 450 years of history, to make real and effective changes in Sark. This Crown Lease means that he is the only person in Sark who has the legitimacy to determine our future. A covenant exists between every man, woman and child who lives in Sark and their Seigneur. By living and working here, we are all subject to his authority. Unlike the Island's unelected would-be politicians, none of whom have faced the electorate, received a single vote or have a mandate from the people to govern over them, Christopher Beaumont’s right to shape the future of his Island and his people cannot be challenged.
The momentous task that our Seigneur has in making Sark financially independent and thereby protecting our right to self-determination will not be achieved if the Island cannot meet its commitments in the years ahead. The issues of a declining population and higher taxes which many cannot afford to pay are compounded by a tourism industry that is dying on its feet, with less visitors coming to Sark than ever before and with those who do come having less money to spend.
If Christopher Beaumont represents hope and the prospect of a future for Sark then the Island’s unelected would-be politicians represent a dark and troubled past. Many of them are about to desert the sinking ship that is Sark, but not before first bringing the Island to its nadir - to “the worst moment, or the moment of least hope and least achievement.”
The unelected would-be politician Colin Golds resigned his seat last Thursday. Illustrating the contempt in which our wholly unelected parliament holds the people of Sark, no explanation was given as to his reasons for resigning. Charles Maitland, Hazel Fry and Robert Cottle are set to follow Golds out of the door very shortly, triggering yet another round of meaningless sham by-elections which will only result in yet more unelected would-be politicians dictating how we should live our lives, despite having no mandate to govern.
Thankfully for the people of Sark it is not the unelected ‘here-today-gone-tomorrow’ would-be politicians who are tasked with protecting our right to self-determination. Left to them we would very soon become just another parish of Guernsey. It is our Seigneur who, from his position of strength and authority, will protect our autonomous status and our independence so that we can look forward to a bright and prosperous future.
The people of Sark will not have to wait long to hear how much he believes in the future of his Island. Major Christopher Beaumont was scheduled to give his first public speech to the people of Sark on Tuesday of this week. With a clear indication that he intends to engage with all stakeholders on Sark, he was to address a meeting of the Island's Chamber of Commerce at the Sark Sanctuary Centre, adjacent to the Methodist Church. Unfortunately, due to adverse weather conditions impacting on his need to be back in the UK to attend a family funeral, he was reluctantly forced to postpone the event. It has been announced that the event has been re-scheduled for 12th December 2017, when we have been told that the Seigneur will:
“discuss with us, both his vision for the future of Sark and also his plans for the future of La Seigneurie.”
The Seigneur has considerable influence and power and can set the agenda for the future of a Sark that welcomes inward investment, creates businesses and employment, reduces taxes and reverses the damage inflicted on the Island and its people over the course of the past nine years by our unelected would-be politicians. During the period since the sham elections of December 2008, the Island’s key economic indicators make for devastating reading:
• The number of year-round residents is down by 40%.
• Land and property prices are down 30%.
• Employment is down 70%.
• The number of children attending Sark’s school is down 40%.
• Building sector activity is down by 60%.
• The Island’s hotel bed-stock is down 66%.
• Retail space let is down by 55%.
• Property tax has risen by 116%.
• Direct taxes have risen by 52%.
Meanwhile the number of visitors coming to Sark via Guernsey to support the Island’s principal economic driver, tourism, has stagnated at a little under 50,000 a year. Many individual hospitality businesses in Guernsey see this number of customers coming through their doors every year. Our unelected would-be politicians would have us believe that this Island only needs the same number of customers as that of a single café, bar or restaurant in Guernsey to support our entire tourism industry. Little wonder the Island is in the mess it is in today.
Even the figure of 50,000 a year seeks to flatter the track record of our unelected would-be politicians. Included in this figure are the journeys made to and from Guernsey by Sark residents. Of far more significance is the fact that the spend per head of the visitors coming to Sark today is a fraction of what it was in December 2008.
The Island has fallen into the trap of attracting, in the main, the ‘teas and wees’ brigade, day visitors and cruise line passengers with severely limited spending power. This is a trend which must be reversed. It is the staying visitor who will make a meaningful contribution to Sark’s GDP and in turn boost the Island’s economy. We need ‘heads on beds’ in our hotels, our guest houses, our self-catering units and our campsites. These in turn will put people through the doors of our restaurants, cafés, shops and bars.
Tourism and consumer spending are the bedrock of Sark’s economy but these key sectors have been neglected over the past nine years by our unelected and self-serving would-be politicians who have pursued instead a policy of economic ethnic cleansing in their desperation to cling to power.
Fortunately our future does not lie in their hands. It is Christopher Beaumont who is the custodian of the unique rights and privileges we enjoy as an autonomous jurisdiction. He is the only person with the authority to shape Sark’s future, and what a tremendous future the Island can look forward to.
We are on the edge of Europe, just 20 miles of water separate us from the west coast of France. Yet, despite our close proximity to Europe, we are not controlled by the EU. We do not have to take any notice of the endless stream of new laws and regulations pouring out of Brussels. We are outside the jurisdiction of the British parliament, despite the UK Ministry of Justice’s attempts to interfere in our right to self-determination. The Ministry of Justice have no right to come to Sark and interfere in our governance. We are not bound by the laws and regulations of Westminster. We should turn them away at the harbour whenever they come here telling us what we can and cannot do. Our neighbouring States of Guernsey and Jersey similarly have no authority over Sark at all.
If on face of it Christopher Beaumont’s task in turning the Island’s fortunes around looks momentous, it is not. A few simple changes can be implemented with little or no cost, changes which will make the Island a place where people want to come to live, work and buy their own home or simply somewhere to visit for a truly memorable holiday.
We urgently need land reform so that people can raise a mortgage and buy their own homes. We need Guernsey Customs officers to train Sark residents to man our own Customs post. We have our own judge, and police officers; it is an insult to the people of Sark to say that we cannot have our own Customs officers. We need to know who is on and who is off the Island, for which our own trained Customs officers local knowledge will be invaluable. With the introduction of a Customs post, manned by our own officers, will come direct access to the huge tourism markets of mainland Europe, which is critical to Sark’s economic survival. We need to drastically reduce the number of tractors on our roads. Tractors should be for agricultural and freight use only, not as a means of personal transport.
Christopher Beaumont is the custodian of the future of this Island and its people. The above are just a few of the things that he can change and thereby ensure that the only way for Sark is up.
17th November 2017
IN AN EVER-TROUBLED WORLD WE NEED TO BE UNITED AND STRONG BUT OUR UNELECTED WOULD-BE POLITICIANS HAVE LEFT SARK DIVIDED AND EXPOSED
No one could have done a better job of destroying Sark’s future than the ex-serviceman Reginald Guille, the multi-tenement owning multi- millionaire Edric Baker and the Island’s self-styled ‘chief minister’ Charles Maitland. Ably assisted by sycophants such as the thug and would-be hard man Alan Blythe and taxpayer-funded state employees Paul Williams, Peter Byrne, Antony Dunks, Robert Cottle, Peter La Trobe-Bateman and Cormac Scott, they represent all that is wrong with the governance of Sark.
They, along with every other member of their parliament of would-be politicians, have not faced the electorate. They have not received a single vote from the electorate. They have no mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf, to levy taxes or to make laws. Nevertheless, they continue with their charade, posing as a democratically elected government whilst the rest of the world looks on with disbelief.
We are fortunate indeed that in Sark our future does not lie in the hands of these unelected would -be politicians who have shown their contempt for the most basic principal of democracy, that of going to the people and receiving mandate to govern on their behalf. In Sark, the only person with the authority to shape our future is our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. By right of a Crown Lease that can trace its origins back to the reign of Elizabeth I, Major Beaumont owns Sark’s constitution and its jurisdiction.
Winston Churchill once wrote:
“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”
The truth in Sark is that despite the protestations of the likes of the UK Ministry of Justice, the governments of our neighbouring islands and, in fairness, the previous editorial stance of this publication, Sark is Major Christopher Beaumont’s Island and all the time we choose to live and work here, we are his people. As such our Seigneur is at liberty to lead the Island to wherever he sees fit and all indications are that he is determined to lead us to prosperity and strength so that we can protect our autonomous status and our right to self-determination.
The factual data reported on the front page of this week’s edition of the Sark Newspaper represent a devastating indictment of the destruction that the Island’s unelected would-be politicians have inflicted on us all. At a time when the western world has enjoyed a long-sustained period of low inflation and all but zero interest rates, we in Sark have seen a deterioration of living standards as a direct result of our unelected would-be politicians’ policies of economic ethnic cleansing.
When one looks at the mess that these unelected unqualified and inexperienced would-be politicians have made of the Island’s economy, it is a wonder that Major Christopher Beaumont has decided to come and live here at all. It is to his credit that he has. By doing so he is sending out a clear message to the people of Sark, that of a belief that he can use the powers vested in him courtesy of his Crown Lease to turn around the fortunes of his Island and with it those of his people. But, what a mess he has inherited!
Whilst property prices across the UK have risen by over 35% on average since 2008, the value of houses in Sark have fallen by 30%, a differential in growth in real terms of 65%.
The number of year-round residents living in Sark has been driven down from over 650 in December 2008 to below 390 today.
Property tax has risen an eye watering 116% since December 2008. There can be no greater weapon in our unelected would-be politicians’ armoury than that of using discriminately taxation to target prospective inward investment. Their perverse ideology has resulted in massive tax hikes for all property owners in Sark, who have become caught up in the state’s attack on the largest inward investor in Sark’s history.
Activity in the building sector, the barometer of any economy, is 60% down from the average enjoyed in the years leading up to 2008. This collapse in customers’ confidence to spend on their properties does not take into consideration the boom years for the sector of 2009 to 2013 when the Aval du Creux Hotel, Stocks Hotel, the Dixcart Bay Hotel, La Moinerie Hotel and Hotel Petit Champ were collectively beneficiaries of inward investment into Sark of over £35million.
Employment in Sark is down 70%, which is little wonder when the Island’s unelected would-be politicians refuse to allow Sark’s principal economic driver, its tourism industry, access to the markets on mainland Europe - markets that are essential to its survival. The introduction of a Customs post that would allow visitors from France direct access to Sark in under an hour would transform the Island’s economy and provide for decades of year-on-year economic growth. The benefits would flood down throughout all sectors of Sark’s economy and allow us to repopulate the Island with working men, women and families.
The failure of Sark’s unelected would-be politicians to allow the hospitality sector access to new markets has resulted in the Island’s hotel bed stock declining by 66% over the past nine years. Sark can boast a collection of hotels which are the envy of our competitors across the Channel Islands and the west coast of France. The quality of accommodation and service of every hotel in Sark means that our combined offering is of a standard rarely found in what is an ever-competitive market. It is doubtful that any single destination can come close to us. Nevertheless, of Sark’s six hotels only two remain open, La Sablonnerie and Stocks Hotel. Neither of these can fill their rooms throughout the short summer season and are having to resort to high season discounting. More competition in this market would be a pointless exercise therefore the remaining four hotels will stay closed until such a time as the entire tourism industry in Sark is given direct access to the markets of mainland Europe.
The impact of our unelected would-be politicians’ policy of economic ethnic cleansing is not felt by the Island’s hotels alone. Over 55% of Sark’s retail space lies empty and unlet. Numerous small cafés, restaurants, bars and shops around Sark have closed their doors as a result of having to compete for a smaller and smaller slice of an ever-decreasing tourism market.
A key aspect to making the Island attractive to incomers must be the capping of any further increases to personal taxation. Our unelected would-be politicians have increased the tax burden on the private individual by an inflation-smashing 52% since December 2008. As Sébastian Moerman, an unelected member of Sark’s parliament Chief Pleas observed earlier this year:
“We don’t need higher taxes, we need more taxpayers”.
Added to Sébastian Moerman’s view that we need more taxpayers is the widely held belief in Sark that we need more children. The number of pupils attending the Island’s school has plummeted by 40% since December 2009.
Within the factual data set out on the front page of this edition lies the reason for the change in editorial stance of this publication. A man can change his mind and circumstances can change it for him. Faced with these irrefutable facts it is impossible to see how Sark can retain its autonomous status, its independence and its right to self-determination if our future is left in the hands of unelected, incompetent and self-serving would-be politicians.
Only this week Guernsey politicians were calling for greater independence from Westminster. Sark does not need greater independence, we already have it courtesy of the powers vested in our Seigneur Major Christopher Beaumont through his Crown Lease. At time when we should have been building our economic strength and securing our right to self-determination, our unelected would-be politicians have been systematically destroying our economy. At a time when we needed unity like never before, they have created only division.
What an uphill struggle our new Seigneur has, what a monumental task. We must unite and stand shoulder to shoulder with Christopher Beaumont to rebuild our economy and secure our right to self-determination.
9th November 2017
Readers of the Sark Newspaper have been asking me why the editorial stance of my publication has changed recently? What has happened to make me change my mind so fundamentally? My response to these questions is that a person can change their mind and circumstances can change it for them.
It is my view that we are living in a highly regulated and increasingly troubled world and that Sark’s autonomy is unique and must be protected. Recent events have led me to believe that our Seigneur Christopher Beaumont recognises this and understands that because of the numerous issues facing Sark, we must all work together to secure and retain our autonomous status, our independence and our right to self-determination.
I believe that our Seigneur does not want his Island or his people to have to rely on the outside world either politically or economically. To achieve this, he recognises that it is imperative that he becomes the Seigneur of an independent and prosperous Sark.
Cometh the time, cometh the man and Christopher Beaumont is in my opinion a man who has the right attitude, skills and desire to implement changes for the benefit of all Islanders. If I am right, and he does lead the Island out of its current economic and political paralysis, history will judge him with respect and honour and acknowledge him as the man who retained and protected Sark’s independence and right to self-determination for generations to come.
3rd November 2017
CHRISTOPHER BEAUMONT OFFERS A NEW DAWN FOR SARK BUILT UPON OPENNESS, TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Sark is very fortunate to have a Seigneur who owns our constitution and, equally importantly, our jurisdiction. This makes our Island unique in an ever more troubled world. The powers vested in Christopher Beaumont guarantee our independence as an autonomous state and our right to self- determination. Sark is outside the jurisdiction of the UK and is not subject to the laws of the British parliament. Sark is not part of the European Union and is not answerable to EU laws and regulations. Equally, we are not subject to the laws and regulations of the States of Guernsey. The endless stream of new laws and regulations pouring out of Europe, the UK and Guernsey are made by democratically elected politicians on the basis of promises they cannot keep. The fact remains that we are better off without them. In Sark we have a parliament of unelected would-be politicians, all of whom we would most certainly be better off without. Not one of them have faced the electorate. Not one of them has received a single vote. Not one of them has a mandate from the people of Sark to govern. Unelected, unqualified and incapable, they have spent the past nine years proving themselves to be vindictive, malicious, short-sighted and self-serving. Concentrating all their effort and using their unaccountable and unopposed power to oust those trying to build something in Sark. They have destroyed the Island’s economy.
Following the sudden death of his father in July of last year, Christopher Beaumont should have inherited a prosperous Island with a flourishing economy. Instead he assumed ownership and responsibilities for an Island with an economy that is in a state of collapse following nine years of state-sponsored attacks on businesses, jobs and the livelihoods of its own people. He should have assumed command of an Island where inward investment was flowing in, providing employment and raising living standards year-on-year. Instead he found himself in control of an Island that has not only shunned the largest inward investor in its history but has spent its time and resources throughout the past nine years on attacking and undermining the investors, their investments, their representatives in Sark and their employees.
These are simple statements of facts of the economic reality of the self-legislating autonomous Island which the 23rd Seigneur of Sark, Major Christopher Beaumont, inherited some 16 months ago. They have been repeated many times in past editions of this publication and make difficult reading but only by understanding the magnitude of the problem facing Sark can we work together to find and implement the solutions.
Sark’s economy is in a state of collapse. Over 225 jobs have been lost and most of the unemployed have had no choice but to leave the Island for good and make a life for themselves elsewhere. Many of those remaining are suffering hardship, having difficulties paying the rent and putting food on the table. Shops and businesses, big and small, have closed down, others are on the verge of bankruptcy.
The lives of many families have been devastated and over 260 Islanders have already left whilst others are in the process of leaving simply because they have no other choice. The fact that the Island’s resident population has dropped from 650 in 2008 to below 390 today and is shrinking rapidly speaks for itself. Sark is losing its life-blood, its people. The Island’s cash reserves are depleted, consisting mainly of worthless shares in the Isle of Sark Shipping Company, whilst swingeing tax increases are continuously imposed on a diminishing number of taxpayers.
Sark is not sustainable - neither its tourism-dependent economy nor the population which depends on that economy for their livelihoods. Without a dramatic change - without a viable economic plan which includes the border control that will give Sark direct access to the European tourist market and without a fundamental reversal of policy to restore investor confidence. The Island has no viable future, neither economically nor demographically.
Given the above it is to Christopher Beaumont’s credit that he didn't simply give up on Sark and walk away. A lesser man may well have done so but he appears, on the face of it, to have chosen to move to Sark and take on the responsibility of protecting our autonomous status. He has already broken the mould by agreeing to address the members of Sark Chamber of Commerce later this month with his vision for the future of Sark.
Rumours currently abound around Sark with regard to where the Seigneur and his family will live and what they will do with the most iconic building on the Island, La Seigneurie. In a commendable act of openness, transparency and accountability he at that meeting will take the opportunity to reveal his future plans for La Seigneurie.
The Seigneur will find that he will be listened to with respect and courtesy when he addresses the members and non-members of Sark’s Chamber of Commerce. However, he will be perfectly aware that in the questions and answer session in which he has agreed to participate he will hear views and concerns that are representative of all Islanders. Meanwhile, he will no doubt be aware that he will only meet and get the views of all members of Sark’s community by engaging with them individually or in in small groups. Indications are that he has already begun this process and that given time, everyone in Sark will have had the opportunity to meet with the Seigneur and express their views, concerns and hopes for the future.
To many in Sark the refreshingly inclusive approach which Christopher Beaumont has brought to the role of Seigneur has not taken them by surprise. People have been contacting this publication to point out that the new Seigneur has never bought into the one-party state boycott of businesses owned by individuals identified as enemies of the state.
His frequent low profile visits to Sark over the past ten years reveal that he is a man of conviction who will not be pushed around by any individual or group. He shops where he wants to shop, eats out where he wants to eat out and drinks where he wants to drink, regardless of who owns or operates the business.
He will be only too aware that numerous hospitality businesses he has visited over the years, both large and small, have had to close their doors through lack of trade. There are simply not enough visitors coming to Sark, particularly staying visitors, to sustain the Island’s principal economic driver, its tourism sector. In recent years Sark has benefitted from two seasons of prime time national television coverage courtesy of the BBC 1 programme An Island Parish. Despite this free nationwide advertising and promotion of Sark, a total of 12 half hour episodes, visitor numbers from the UK remain stagnant and show no prospect for any meaningful future growth. Only by opening up Sark to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe will our own tourism sector be able to attract more staying visitors for our hotels, guest houses, self-catering units and campsites.
Christopher Beaumont will know that there is nothing new or clever in the simple concept of having a customs post in Sark and allowing continental visitors travelling from the west coast of France to travel directly to Sark. For most of the 20th century our Island welcomed commercial vessels and their passengers who had made the short journey from the French ports of Dielette, Carteret or Granville into Sark.
If we quickly remove Sark’s self-imposed obstacles to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe, we need then to focus on what we have to offer prospective visitors. Our unique selling points are the Island’s natural beauty and the fact that we are a self-governing autonomous state whose rights to self-determination sit with one person, our Seigneur Christopher Beaumont. However, the international tourism market is brimming with competitors willing and able to attract visitors to their destinations and we must smarten up our act if we are to compete with them and bring in good value high spending customers.
The Island’s pot holed and dusty roads must be consigned to the annals of history. We could begin by resurfacing the Harbour Hill, which in its present state is a disgrace that would not be tolerated in a third world African state. We need things for visitors to do. A golf course, tennis courts, world class spa facilities. Co-operation by tenement owners could see the realisation of the vision of a cliff path which would allow visitors to circumnavigate the Island - 40 miles of the world’s most stunning coastline. In the coming weeks we will find out if some, if not all, of these ideas, form a significant part of Christopher Beaumont’s vision for the future of Sark.
26th October 2017
ONLY CHRISTOPHER BEAUMONT HAS LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY IN SARK
Whilst the outside world looks on, the would-be politicians who make up Sark’s one-party state have spent the past nine years destroying our economy, depopulating the Island and putting their own self-interest above that of the future of the Island and its people. Unelected and unaccountable, they have driven the economy into the ground and are now set on finding someone, anyone other than themselves, to blame.
We can’t trust, nor do we need to trust, the 24 members of Sark’s unelected parliament - Chief Pleas. Not one of them has faced the electorate. Not one has received a single vote. Not one has a mandate from the people to govern. They have passed laws and pursued policies which openly discriminate against inward investment, businesses and jobs. The net result is numerous small and large businesses are having to close their doors through lack of trade. Over 225 jobs have been lost and the number of year-round residents has collapsed from over 650 in December 2008 to below 390 today.
In less than ten years of economic ethnic cleansing, the past and present members of Sark’s one-party state parliament have overseen a 40% drop in the number of people living here.
Only one individual has the legitimate authority, the skills and, we must hope, the will to change the future of Sark and that individual is the Island’s 23rd feudal lord Major Christopher Beaumont. The fact that he has such powers, courtesy of a Crown Lease which was established in the mid-16th century, makes Sark an Island unequalled in the western world.
Sark’s future as an autonomous state is in the hands of Christopher Beaumont. Following the sudden death of his father, Michael, in July 2016, he inherited the powers and responsibilities that come with the ownership of Sark’s constitution and jurisdiction. Most importantly, he inherited a self-legislating Island state that has an inalienable right to self-determination.
Sark is geographically on the edge of Europe; only 20 miles of sea separate us. Crucially, we are not controlled by Europe. As a Crown Dependency we are protected by the UK but we are not governed by them. We are part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey but are an autonomous state, courtesy of our feudal lord’s Crown Lease.
In a troubled and ever-changing world we have to depend on Christopher Beaumont to protect our unique rights and institutions. We cannot rely on unelected would-be politicians who have delivered only economic destruction and paralysis to the Island and its people.
Christopher Beaumont has inherited an autonomous state which has the right to make its own laws, control its own waters and seabed, and levy and collect our own taxes. We have our own judiciary and we have our own police force, manned by year-round local Sark residents.
We have the right to have our own Customs officers, again local men and women, to allow us to access the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe. The cost of training and paying our own Customs officers can easily be met by administering a landing charge that reflects the cost of allowing the people of Europe direct access into Sark.
Each and every one of these rights and institutions are unique to Sark. In an ever troubled and changing world, where events can change the fortunes of nations in the blink of an eye, we must find ways of working together to support Christopher Beaumont in protecting our precious autonomy.
We can only do this by building a strong economy that can attract new inward investment from a myriad of investors. We need to create the economic environment that will see businesses of all shapes and sizes reopening in Sark ahead of the 2018 tourism season. A man can change his mind and events can change it for him. We must ensure that Christopher Beaumont is supported from all quarters in his duty to lead Sark out of its current economic paralysis.
He cannot do it on his own. He must build alliances with potential investors into his Island, be they large, medium or small. Hiking up taxes on businesses is the last thing Sark, an autonomous state which must rebuild its economy or die, needs to do. It is discriminatory and creates the ultimate deterrent to inward investment and economic growth. The fact that Sark’s future lies in the hands of Christopher Beaumont and not unelected would-be politicians offers the greatest protection to the Island’s priceless autonomy.
20th October 2017
CHRISTOPHER BEAUMONT IS THE SOLE GUARANTOR OF OUR RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION
In these post-Brexit days it is clear that Europe is dividing in a way that has not been witnessed since the Second World War. Old fault lines are reopening and in doing so they are providing central governments with opportunities to muscle in on what they perceive to be troublesome regions. Only this week we learn that the Spanish government will trigger article 155 of its constitution, thereby revoking Catalonia’s autonomy. Overnight the autonomous community encompassing the provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona will simply disappear.
In Sark we are fortunate to have the powers that safeguard our autonomy vested in one individual, Christopher Beaumont, the Island’s 23rd Seigneur. It is he who guarantees our right to self-determination, courtesy of a Crown Lease which has its origins set in the reign of Elizabeth I. This is a lease that has stood the test of time and today, over 450 years since it was first granted, it continues to enshrine our right to self-determination.
Sark has its own parliament, its own court, its own judge and its own police force. It is on the edge of Europe but not controlled by Europe. As a Crown Dependency, we are not part of the UK and not governed by the UK but nevertheless protected by them. Although only 2.1 sq. miles in size, we are ‘the jewel in the crown’ of the Channel Islands, yet none of our larger neighbouring Islands rule over us.
However, the outside world is pressing against Sark like never before. Many of those who walk the corridors of power off-Island question our right to self-determination.
For nine years Sark has been sleepwalking towards oblivion. There has been no leadership, nor has there been any unifying idea, apart from a futile resistance to comply with 21st century standards. Instead of focussing on strengthening the Island’s economy, the state has relentlessly pursued a policy of economic ethnic cleansing.
The net result is that the population has collapsed from over 650 year-round residents in 2008 to below 390 today. One has only to look at the drop in the number of pupils attending the Sark school to see the long-term impact of this disastrous policy. Recent data shows that it has dropped from 47 to 27, a disastrous and unsustainable 42.5% collapse in the number of school children in Sark.
All indications are that these numbers will continue to fall dramatically in the coming years. It is widely acknowledged that, to maintain population numbers in any society, a birth rate of 2.1% per capita is necessary. This year in Sark we will celebrate the arrival of only two babies to year-round resident mothers, a birth rate per capita of a mere 0.5%.
It is in the gift of Christopher Beaumont to stop this madness. He can bring about societal change to alter the disastrous course that is driven by an outdated feudal ideology. He can, if he chooses, set about uniting Sark and set it on a course of economic prosperity, paving the way for businesses to reopen, which will in turn create jobs, raise living standards and repopulate the Island.
Although only in the role for a little over 15 months, Sark’s feudal lord Christopher Beaumont will have learnt that defending our right to self-determination is a demanding task. It is a task that has been made all the harder by the collapse in the Island’s economy in the wake of almost a decade of economic ethnic cleansing. He will know that as a result of this policy, the world is coming at Sark at just the time when it is least able to defend itself.
We do not have a single elected politician in our government. This leaves us vulnerable and exposed on the world stage when we make the false claim that we are a fully representative democracy. Not one of the members of our parliament has faced the electorate. Not one member of our parliament has received a single vote from the electorate. Not one member of our parliament has a mandate from the people to govern on their behalf.
Sark is currently a toxic mix of a failed system of government and collapsed economy. If anyone thinks that Christopher Beaumont has an easy job ahead of him sorting this mess out, they are deluding themselves. Sort it out he must if he is to guarantee our future autonomy and with it our right to self-determination.
The time has come for all stakeholders in Sark to come together to rebuild the Island's economy and work towards creating a fully representative democracy. To do so will require a strong individual to unite us all. Only time will tell if Christopher Beaumont is that man.
12th October 2017
THE POWERS TO PROTECT US ALL
ARE VESTED IN ONE INDIVIDUAL
Whilst there is much that divides the people of Sark, there are many things that we all have in common. First and foremost, amongst these is a determination amongst Islanders to ensure that Sark defends its unique status in the world and in doing so retains its precious autonomy.
Sark is on the edge of Europe; geographically we are just 20 miles from the west coast of mainland Europe, whilst not being controlled by Europe. We benefit from being part of the United Kingdom but are not governed by them. Sark is one of the Channel Islands but, unlike Alderney, no other Island has the right to exercise control over us.
We have our own parliament that shapes and makes our laws. We set and collect our own taxes. We have our own court of law with powers equal to that of the High Court in London. We have our own judge, a year-round resident of Sark. We have our own police force that is manned by men and women. All of whom have to be full-time year-round residents of Sark to qualify to serve.
We have the right, if we so choose, to appoint our own customs officers. The precedent set by the criteria for candidates to our judiciary and law enforcement agency would also require them to be year-round residents. We could, if we wish, combine the roles of police officer and Customs officers and have dual badged officers, employed by the Island, who could be given professional training to allow them to operate to internationally recognised standards.
In an increasingly dangerous, mad and confused world Sark has the right to determine its own future. We are fortunate that in one man, Christopher Beaumont, we have someone who holds the constitution on our behalf. Courtesy of a unique Crown Lease that can trace its legitimacy back over some 450 years, he is in the unique position to protect his Island and the rights of his people to self-determination. We have yet to learn if he possesses the qualities required to be a truly remarkable feudal lord protector of the Island of Sark. In April of this year he told the members of the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce that:
“I view the responsibility I have as being the current custodian of Sark’s unique position within the world.”
“I have only been Seigneur for a matter of months. The transition was instantaneous. The learning process about Sark however started from an almost standing start and has continued at a frantic pace. Being Seigneur puts me in a position of privilege and some responsibility.”
He went on to demonstrate that he had a full understanding of Sark’s unparalleled status on the world stage:
“Sark is unique in that it is a Crown Dependency with direct relationship to Her Majesty and that is through a perpetual lease that is currently held by me but originally granted 452 years ago by Elizabeth I. In today’s terms that means that Sark is a democratic self-governing jurisdiction with a degree of independence. Sark makes its own laws, raises its own taxes, pledges allegiance to the Crown for the protection offered from Her Majesty’s government. The Ministry of Justice, the Lt. Governor and I all take an active interest in Sark’s good governance and government.”
Unfortunately, Christopher Beaumont failed to follow up his understanding of Sark’s autonomy with an honest assessment of the difficulties facing the Island’s economy. He was therefore unable to put forward solutions to the economic problems that, left unchecked, threaten Sark’s autonomous status. He instead opted to trot out the ‘tried and tested’ theme of Sark being ‘a land of milk and honey’; devoid of any of the issues that face the real world. His message was clear: ‘all is good in Sark and nothing will change.’
This was perhaps understandable. By his own admission Christopher Beaumont had, at the time, been engaged in a learning process that was taking place at a frantic pace. By now he will have learnt that his Island is a far cry from the ‘land of milk and honey’ that he so eloquently described to Guernsey's Chamber of Commerce. Sark’s economy is in terminal decline. The population has dropped from over 650 in December 2008 to below 390 today. The number of pupils attending the Island’s only school has plummeted from 47 to 27 over the same period of time.
A person can change their mind and, more often than not, circumstances can change it for them. We must hope that Christopher Beaumont is a man who will accept that he was mistaken. He must address the real issues facing Sark. In doing so he can protect all of our futures.
6th October 2017
THE DECLINE OF SARK’S ECONOMY PREDICTABLE, AVOIDABLE, YET RECOVERABLE
At this week’s meeting of Chief Pleas, Sark’s wholly unelected parliament, long-time member Christopher Nightingale announced that he would be closing his dairy business in mid-November. In a voice trembling with emotion he told the assembly that he would run his current stock of milk bottles down and, once they were gone, the dairy would close for good. This is both a human and economic tragedy for Mr Nightingale, his family and the people of Sark.
This is a tragedy that could have been avoided. Had the governance of Sark not focussed its time, energy and resources over the past nine years in attacking its perceived enemies and had instead adopted a policy of cooperation between government and business the dairy, along with the numerous businesses that have been forced into closure by the state’s policy of economic ethnic cleansing, would be positively thriving.
This publication, along with many Islanders, has a huge respect for Christopher Nightingale. As a hard-working farmer he has dedicated his life to the care of his animals and to producing high quality dairy products, the foremost of which is, of course, local milk. A man with a huge natural presence and a disarming charm, over the years he has shown himself capable of leaving his political ideology within the confines of the committee offices and engaged with all sections of Sark’s society. He is by no means unique in this, but, amongst the few members of Sark’s government that do engage with all of Sark’s residents, Mr Nightingale stands head and shoulders above them all.
Over the past year he has been instrumental in Sark Estate Management’s Terry Crowther’s work in building a beef herd that will be grazing the land that is being returned to pasture following the closure of its vineyards. Many of the animals within the herd have been purchased from Mr Nightingale’s dairy business and his advice and support have been invaluable.
Sark’s dairy is yet another business that has fallen foul of the Island’s anti-business policies. This week’s meeting of Chief Pleas was of note in that it marked the moment in time when Sark’s ‘establishment’ finally acknowledged the dire state of the Island’s economy. True to form they could not bring themselves to admit that it is of their own making, preferring instead to apportion blame to the very people they have wasted the past nine years attacking.
Even now there are hard-line feudal fundamentalists that will see Sark’s economy die and would surrender the Island’s autonomy, rather than set aside their bitterness and hostility and seeking a solution to Sark’s woes. That said there are perhaps signs that amongst their midst there are some voices of reason that see that the only way forward for Sark is to establish a culture of open, transparent and accountable governance and an economic climate to attract desperately needed inward investment. Charles Maitland, reflecting on Sark’s governance for item 12 of the agenda, said:
“I have met some angry residents over the past few weeks, probably no doubt the same residents that bothered to reply to the exhaustive consultation sent out by the Good Governance PDT earlier in the year. They cannot understand why Chief Pleas cannot grasp the need for reform and get on with it and consider that much of this attitude is driven by self-interest. Certainly I think that Chief Pleas is in danger of becoming a laughing stock; we fudged the issue of reducing our numbers to 14, settling for the dangerously high number of 18 and then, to make matters worse, refuse to take the next logical step in agreeing to the establishment review which asks the committees to look at what functions could be delegated. There are many that say some Conseillers are more interested in what Sark can do for them rather than looking to see what they can do for Sark. Self-interest and protection of their jobs and the way they undertake those jobs supervised by the committee of which they are a member would seem to be paramount.”
Sébastien Moerman, assessing the dire state of the Island’s economy, stated:
“The priority should be the economy. We have a declining economy. We need to attract new taxpayers and investors to Sark. If we carry on the way we are it is very likely that we will become a retirement home.”
The decline of Sark’s economy was as predictable as it was avoidable. The closure of the Island’s dairy provides a wakeup call, if any were needed, to all on Sark. Over four years ago the letter opposite was sent to the Sark government warning them of the consequences of inaction on their part. The offer of a public / private initiative to establish a Customs post remains on the table. We must work together to build a sustainable economy. We must create a prosperous future for the generations that follow us, and in doing so, protect our precious autonomy.
“It is an undisputable fact that Sark’s economy is facing an uncertain future. The numbers of tourists and day visitors coming here are alarmingly low. Not only does this have an impact on the Island’s tourism-related businesses where income is down, it also affects the Island’s revenues as illustrated by the drop in last year’s income from Impot. Revenues from hospitality businesses on the island show that a further substantial drop in impot revenues for this year can be expected. Furthermore, with desperately low levels of freight and all but stagnant passenger numbers, the Isle of Sark Shipping’ revenues are falling with the company expected to follow last year’s appalling losses with a further loss in trading this year. Once again the Island’s taxpayers will have to bear the cost of supporting the Company’s shortfall in cash flow and, indeed, its commitment to the banks.
The small size of the Guernsey market, the only daily market open to Sark, is obviously insufficient to sustain the Island’s main industry, namely tourism. As a result, unemployment is rising and record numbers of people are having to leave the Island.
There is only one solution that will deliver an immediate boost to Sark’s economy and in turn its job market; you and your Committee have the responsibility to act without further delay and confirm that there will be a Customs post on Sark in place before the beginning of the next tourist season, starting in April 2014. There is no alternative if you wish to provide a future for Sark and its people - and in the process help to resolve the differences that divide the island by creating an economy for the benefit of all.
Sark has nothing to lose and, indeed, there is no alternative. I confirm that the cost of providing all necessary facilities for a customs post will be met by SEM, be it in the form of a portacabin or refitting an existing structure. SEM will also commit to provide accommodation for the Customs officers, which leaves the Island of Sark bearing the cost of the seasonal salaries only.
Sark is an attractive, low cost destination with some 8million people living in the immediate vicinity of North West France alone, only an hour or so away across the Channel. The strength of the Euro works tremendously in our favour. A pint of lager, for example, costs twice as much in France as it does in Sark and this applies to many other consumer items and tourism-related services.
Tourism is a major contributor to the economies of all the countries in the Western world. Sark can no longer support itself through the declining number of visitors from the Bailiwick Islands alone, Islands which have their own problems in dealing with their economies. Sark can no longer sit back and hope for the best. We have to act and act now.
It is vital for Sark’s various tourism-related businesses, and all other sectors of the economy that benefit from a healthy tourism market, that there is a commitment from the Island’s government without further delay. We merely need to know now that there will be a Customs presence on the Island for the next season so that we can immediately plan and start marketing accordingly. The Tourism Committee is currently canvassing businesses to advertise in its 2014 – 2015 tourism brochure and it is of crucial importance that we can begin marketing direct access to Sark from France in this publication.”