12th October 2018
AN ISLAND DRIVEN TO ITS KNEES BY
UNELECTED WOULD-BE POLITICIANS
A perfect storm is brewing on Sark. Every day brings further news of governmental failures, resignations, economic crises in the public and private sector and an ever-increasing sense of impending doom. Ten years of economic ethnic cleansing by unelected would-be politicians, akin to that last seen in the free world in 1930s Germany, has driven Sark to its knees. The Island is under the control of unelected would-be politicians. None of whom have faced the electorate, nor received a single vote. We do not have a single politician or state official that has a mandate from the people to govern on their behalf, yet ‘govern’ they do.
The fact that we have not seen a ballot box since December 2013 demonstrates just how hopelessly ineffective the Reform Law of 2008 was in delivering democracy to Sark. Shaped and implemented by the then Island judge and president of Chief Pleas, Reginald Guille, the people of Sark were hoodwinked into accepting an electoral system that handed him control over the Island’s elections. By means of the Sark bloc vote Guille and his supporters determine who is selected to sit in Sark’s parliament and who isn’t. Every member of the electorate in Sark votes for every seat in the Island’s parliament. By controlling just a third of the votes Guille and his cronies choose who is elected and who isn’t.
For years the people of Sark suffered in silence for fear of retribution from Guille and his one-party state members and supporters. Living in a small Island community means that falling foul of the mob guarantees you and your family a one-way ticket on the infamous ‘boat that leaves in the morning’. They have watched as over 40% of the Island’s working population have been driven off Sark by a state-sponsored campaign of economic ethnic cleansing. At the very heart of this campaign was the one-party state’s chief enforcer Reginald Guille and his ‘second-in-command’ Edric Baker. Neither give a second thought to the future of Sark and its people. Their objective is to hold onto power; power that neither of them could ever hope to achieve anywhere else in the world. The ex-serviceman Guille and the multi-tenement owning, multimillionaire Edric Baker care only for their own positions in a benign community that has for too long allowed them to ride roughshod over Islanders.
As those who controlled Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s found out, nothing lasts for ever. The people of Sark have suffered a decade of autocratic rule, but it is now Guille and his fellow unelected would-be politicians who are having to deal with the consequences of a decade of economic ethnic cleansing.
- The Island’s population has plummeted by 40%.
- Land and property prices are down 30%.
- Employment is down 70%.
- Sark school pupil numbers are down 30%.
- Our building sector activity is down 60%.
- The Island’s hotel bed-stock is down 66%.
- Retail space occupancy is down 55%.
- Property tax has risen by 116%.
- Direct taxes have risen by 52%.
These are the consequences of Guille, and his supporters, policies of state-sponsored economic destruction that the people of Sark have had to endure for the past decade. The irony is not lost on this Island’s long-suffering population that, as we approach the tenth anniversary of the Island’s first sham elections, the one-party state is finally reaping what it has sown.
With echoes of 1970s mainland Britain our electricity company is precariously close to having to switch off its generators and in doing so plunge the Island into darkness. As was the case in 1970s Britain this is not as a result of mismanagement or profiteering on the part of the company. It is a result of a perverse ideology that puts the retention of state control over every aspect of daily life beyond the wellbeing and future prosperity of the people. The facts speech for themselves. Guille, Baker and their supporters have had unfettered control over Sark for a decade. We have the highest electricity prices in living memory, yet, as a result of their mismanagement of the economy, we are on the verge of seeing our electricity company falling into administration.
Last week the entire Finance & Resources Committee, Sark’s equivalent of the UK’s HM Treasury, resigned en masse. The unelected would-be politicians Sébastien Moerman and Elizabeth Jane Norwich had presented their budget to their fellow members of Sark’s wholly unelected parliament and it was thrown back in their faces. The sometime Sark resident and would-be libel tourist Roger Norwich was, true to form, nowhere to be seen, but nevertheless we must assume that, as a member of the committee, the budget represented his view as to how Sark should be managing its finances throughout 2019. This was as detailed and comprehensive a budget that Sark has seen over the past decade, perhaps at any time in its 450-year history.
The Norwichs and Moerman made a very serious error of judgement in bringing a proposition to Chief Pleas without first having secured approval from Reginald Guille and Edric Baker. Seen by the UK Ministry of Justice and the Crown as reformers, capable of overcoming Guille and Baker’s dominance of Chief Pleas, the Norwichs and Moerman have been exposed as lightweights in the battle to bring transparency, openness and accountability to governance in Sark. The Sark Newspaper confidently predicts that Moerman will shortly sell up and leave Sark, whilst the Norwichs will focus their energies into finding a way of ingratiating themselves into currying favour from Guille, Baker and their supporters.
The resignation of an entire Treasury committee anywhere else in the world would result in the downfall of the government, but not here in Sark. Such matters are of little concern to autocratic regimes or dictatorships. Nevertheless, Guille and Baker’s problems did not end with the going of Moerman and the Norwichs.
Immediately following their rejection of Sark’s 2019 budget the Island’s Senior Administrator, Kath Jones, submitted her letter of resignation.
‘I gave you verbal notice of my resignation on Wednesday 3rd Oct 2018 after the Chief Pleas meeting had closed of my intention to resign. Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation from the position of Senior Administrator for Chief Pleas, the Government of Sark. As per the terms of my employment contract, I will continue to work for the Government for the next three months completing my employment on 3rd January 2019. I reserve all rights.’
‘I appreciate and accept your decision that I spend next week carrying out a handover of all issues I am currently dealing with for the Government and to give assurance to both parties, that a complete copy of my electronic records (emails and associated documents) being taken and held by a competent and independent 3rd party off island, and to have the rest of my notice period as gardening leave (this is common practice for a senior employee). During my notice period I’d be more than willing to make myself available to clarify any points on issues I have handed over.’
So now, after years of pressing for professional administration the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the Crown and the people of Sark are back to square one. Guille and Baker have, as they have always done in the past, got their own way. On Thursday morning of this week the people of Sark woke up to find that Reginald Guille had finally achieved his heart’s desire. He was now safely ensconced as the most powerful figure in Sark’s sham government. Granted, he presents himself to the world as subordinate to the chairman of the new Policy & Finance Committee Stephen Taylor however this is mere window dressing. Guille and his lap dog Edric Baker hold as much control over Sark as they did prior to the Reform Law of 2008.
Nothing demonstrates the futility of outside interference in Sark more than the MOJ and the Crown’s attempts at interfering in our affairs. There is much wrong with Sark, but it is for the people of this Island to resolve. No one off Sark, be it the Crown or the UK MOJ, has the right to engage in social engineering or political manipulation. The effects of short-term manipulation of our political process by ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ characters, such as the unelected Reginald Guille and Edric Baker, pale into insignificance when compared to the interference in our affairs by the UK government and agents of the UK Crown.
Lest the UK government and the Crown forget, we are an independent people. We live in an autonomous jurisdiction where we value our autonomy, our independence and our right to self-determination far above any internal pseudo-political squabbling. We, the people of Sark, will resolve the problems facing our Island. Sark has been driven to its knees by unelected would-be politicians, but that is of our making, no one else's. It is not for the UK MOJ or the Crown to tell us what we should and shouldn't do.