15th November 2019
ARE THE PEOPLE OF SARK SET TO SUFFER A SECOND DECADE OF STATE -SPONSORED ECONOMIC CLEANSING?
It is a year to the day since The Sark Newspaper published an analysis of how the outside world views the lack of coherent governance of this Island. Nothing would please this publication more than if it was able to report that Chief Pleas had faced up to reality, the corner had been turned, and the people of Sark could, at last, look forward to a bright and prosperous future. A year on, it may even have been of some comfort to Islanders to report that nothing has changed. The reality is that the past 12 months have been as catastrophic for Sark and its people as any time in the Island’s history.
As highlighted so often by this publication, the one thing that must unite all Islanders is the protection of Sark’s autonomy, its independence and the people’s right to self-determination. We can only do this from a position of economic strength, a simple fact that Chief Pleas is, to all intents and purposes, oblivious to.
Unlike jurisdictions the world over who measure their financial reserves in billions, tens of billions or trillions of pounds sterling, Sark’s meagre reserves are measured in the hundreds of thousands. Having wasted some £700,000 of taxpayers’ money in hounding the owners of Sark Electricity Ltd (SEL), Chief Pleas is no closer to resolving the short, medium and long-term challenges of providing a 24-hour a day, seven day a week, 52- week a year electricity supply on an Island of fewer than 390 year-round residents.
Indeed, only this week the Chief Pleas-appointed ineffective and costly Electricity Price Control Commissioner, Anthony White, is to be found threatening to take us back to the situation we found ourselves in a year ago. The hapless and confrontational White, from the comfort of his home in the UK, seems once again only too happy to plunge the people of Sark into darkness as he pursues his own vendetta against SEL. The sight of Chief Pleas claiming to have nothing to do with what White is up to, despite the fact that they are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, up to 30% of the Island’s meagre reserves, demonstrates a level of negligence and incompetence that has little equal in the free world.
TAXATION AND THE COST OF LIVING
Chief Pleas do not have any money of their own to spend. They only have the hard-earned cash of the Sark taxpayer to splurge on their flights of fancy, such as their attempts to enforce a state takeover of the Island’s electricity company, to grease one another’s palms with taxpayer-funded state employment and patronage, or to pick up the cost of their incompetence. Following a decade of state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing, the proverbial chickens have come home to roost and it is the year-round Sark resident who is now paying the price.
This year alone on Sark, Personal Capital Tax has risen by 29%. Property Tax has risen by 29%. Taxation on alcohol and tobacco has risen by 7.5%. This month the price of electricity has soared by 28.79%. To place these figures in context, our neighbouring Island of Guernsey’s annual inflation rate as measured by the changes in the retail price index is currently 2.0%.
The 2019 tourism season has now come to an end and data collated by The Sark Newspaper shows that less than 58,000 passengers travelled to Sark. This number includes Islanders travelling on and off Sark. These numbers (no more than a single restaurant such as Christie’s in St Peter Port, Guernsey, would expect to attract in a year) cannot support Sark’s entire tourism industry, the Island’s principal economic driver.
Sark has six first-class hotels, 30,000 sq. feet of commercial and retail space, ten guest houses, 30 self-catering businesses and two campsites. It has three public houses and 18 cafés and restaurants. It is little wonder that many have simply boarded up the windows and closed their doors rather than scrap with their competitors for a slice of an ever-diminishing tourist spend. Only the introduction of a Customs post to allow holiday-makers from mainland Europe to travel directly to Sark, a journey of under an hour, will deliver the visitor numbers that will make Sark’s tourism sector viable. Be it ignorance of the facts, incompetence, negligence or financial self-interest, only Chief Pleas knows why they hold the Island’s tourism sector in such contempt. Only they know how they can justify ignoring the will of over 150 Islanders, 60% of the active electorate, who have signed a petition calling for a Customs post on Sark.
Sark is no further ahead on land reform than it was a year ago. A group of Islanders have petitioned the Privy Council of the United Kingdom requesting that Royal Assent is disallowed for the Projet de Loi, The Land Reform (Sark) Law, 2019. Put simply, in the cause of their own self-interest they wanted land reform stopped in its tracks. The ‘old guard’ have mobilised in the form of Susan Williams, Linda Williams, Susan Daly, Katie Hamon, Wendy Maitland, Dermot Jones, Debbie Guille, Marineh Paton, Cyril McCandless, Hazel Fry and Josephine Birch to put their own financial self-interest above that of the future of Sark and its people.
ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNMENT
Under the guidance of the hopelessly underqualified, inept and domineering taxpayer-funded Chief Secretary, Zannette Bougourd, a recent arrival on Sark, the Island’s administration has lurched from crisis to crisis. For the first time in living memory Sark is set to have no resident doctor. Similarly, we have no deputy constable, no treasurer, no deputy treasurer nor a deputy tax assessor. Once again, proverbial chickens have come home to roost, with Chief Pleas’ belief that they can get away with appointing someone who will tow the party line rather than a fully qualified, independent, experienced Chief Secretary, delivering immeasurable harm to the Island and its people.
THE YEAR AHEAD
All of the above gives succour to outside forces who seek to undermine Sark’s autonomy. However, one question remains: where Sark will be in a years’ time if Chief Pleas continues along a path of negligence, incompetence and economic destruction?
8th November 2019
THE IMPACT OF ONE-PARTY STATE ISOLATIONISM IS HURTING EVERYONE IN SARK
These are dark days for the Island of Sark. From a relatively robust population of 650 in 2008, the Island has suffered an unprecedented rate of state-enforced depopulation that has resulted in less than 390 year-round residents living in Sark today. A decade on, we have 40% fewer taxpayers, 40% fewer consumers of goods and services, and 40% fewer utilities users.
The Island has spent the past decade in the grip of the ‘old guard’; a group of powerful individuals driven by self-interest who promote a doctrine of division and entrenchment, and we are all now paying the price for their folly. The western world has been living through a decade of sustained growth, coupled with low inflation, but Sark has bucked this trend because of the reckless actions of the few.
Guernsey's annual inflation as measured by the changes in the retail price index is currently 2.0%. This year alone on Sark Personal Capital Tax has risen by 29%. Property Tax has risen by 29%. Taxation on alcohol and tobacco has risen by 7.5%. In one month alone, November, the price of electricity has soared by an eyewatering 28.79%.
It is a simple statement of fact that these are the direct financial costs that anyone living in Sark in 2019 has to bare as a direct result of a decade of state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing, akin to that last seen in the western world in 1930s Germany. The net results of these destructive policies do not begin and end with the increased financial burden on Islanders. In the process of depopulating Sark by 40% in a decade, the economies of scale are impacting on the very fabric of Island life.
As of mid-December 2019, Sark will not have a resident doctor. Instead residents will be relying on locums charging up to £700 per day to come to Sark and attend to patients that are little more than strangers to them. So much for the state’s much vaunted community care!
Sark has no Vingtenier. Traditionally the constable chooses a deputy to serve for a year after which they assume the role of constable and, in turn, choose their own Vingtenier, thus maintaining continuity of law enforcement cover. This year no one has been prepared to come forward for the role of Vingtenier, resulting in the prospect of October 2020 being the first time in living memory that the Island has no constable and no Vingtenier. 2020 will see the state-owned ferry and freight company, Isle of Sark Shipping Company Ltd, having to charter vessels at enormous expense to the business and, in turn, the hard-pressed Sark taxpayer. Peter aka Samuel La Trobe-Bateman confirmed at the recent meeting of Chief Pleas that, despite knowing for a year that a replacement vessel would need to be designed, ordered and built, the company was in fact scurrying around looking for a second-hand vessel:
“With the company looking into buying a second-hand vessel to replace the Bon Marin and the Belle. A bank loan is necessary for the company for the purchase of the new
vessel, but this will need to be guaranteed by Chief Pleas. Hopefully this will be coming before the House very soon, otherwise we may need to charter to fill our next year’s season.”
The Island has no qualified treasurer. Instead of an experienced and qualified Chief Secretary, it has an underqualified partisan in the shape of the recent arrival, Zannette Bougourd. All signs are that we will not see a new slaughterhouse. This will in turn lead to the end of the Island’s agrarian way of life. The prospect of Sark having its own dairy herd is dependent on the Island competing with other worthy causes to attract charitable donations to the sum of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Predictably, next year will be like every other year for Sark’s beleaguered tourism industry. Once again, the one-party state’s policy of self-imposed isolationism will deny Sark’s principal economic driver the opportunity to increase trade by allowing holiday makers to travel directly from France into Sark.
1st November 2019
THE LEGACY OF A DECADE OF THE FREE PRESS
HALTING THE RISE OF A ONE-PARTY STATE AND PAVING THE WAY FOR A TRULY DEMOCRATIC SARK
5th November 2009 saw the first edition of The Sark Newsletter published and distributed here in Sark. It was a unique occasion. There had been no shortage of local magazines published on Sark in the preceding years. These were without exception little more than government propaganda. Published by loyal supporters of the Island’s secretive and unaccountable feudal system of government, they sought to portray Sark as a land of milk and honey, inhabited by hard-working indigenous farming families who could trace their roots back to the 1565 settlement of the Island by the Jersey feudal lord, Helier de Carteret. As readers of the free press have discovered over the past ten years, nothing could be further from the truth.
In November 2009 the Island was under the control of a one-party state, reminiscent of Germany and other European dictatorships of the 1930s. ‘Everything within the state, nothing against the state and nothing outside the state’ was as applicable in Sark as it was across many European states in the first half of the twentieth century.
Under the leadership of the Island's ‘chief enforcer’ Reginald Guille, Sark’s progress, from being the last feudal state in Europe to becoming a fully representative democracy, was, and remains to this day, obstructed at every turn. Guille could not and did not do this alone. Along with his supporters, many of whom were, like him, beneficiaries of huge sums of easy money, courtesy of the infamous ‘Sark Lark’, they dug in and set about destroying the Island’s economy in pursuit of their own self-interests.
What followed was a decade of economic ethnic cleansing that had much in common with that undertaken in Germany throughout the 1930s. Hundreds of jobs were destroyed, and numerous families had no choice but to pack up and leave. As a result, the Island’s population collapsed from over 650 year-round residents a decade ago to under 390 today. At each stage of this state-sponsored attack on inward investment, businesses and jobs, The Sark Newspaper, and its predecessor The Sark Newsletter, were here on Sark to record for posterity what happens when the power of the state is turned on its own people. History shows us that regimes such as the one-party state on Sark are never short of willing recruits as the roll of dishonour of former members of Chief Pleas in this week’s publication demonstrates.
The former members of Chief Pleas are gone but they are not forgotten. With no opposition and an appalling lack of democratic accountability they were free to do whatever they liked, whenever they liked. One can only begin to imagine the outcome if such power had sat in the hands of experienced and competent individuals, free from the doctrine of division and entrenchment that has been the hallmark of Chief Pleas over the past ten years. Never has the term the ‘lost decade’ been more apt when describing the woes of a nation.
Their legacy is one of state-sponsored economic destruction, resulting in an unprecedented depopulation of Sark. As is the case whenever rats are to be found deserting a sinking ship, Islanders are asking where those former Conseillers are now, when the results of their destruction are being felt by every man, woman and child in Sark.
With depopulation running at 40% over a ten-year period comes a collapse in demand for essential and non-essential goods and services. Those of us who are left behind are paying considerably higher prices for utilities, services and goods than we would have done had the Island maintained and increased upon the population levels of a decade ago. This, despite the valiant efforts of businesses to keep their prices as low as possible, in many cases sacrificing any profit in the process.
Taxes have risen year-on-year at many times the rate of inflation. This year alone has seen tax hikes bordering on 30%. Where are Reginald Guille, Edric Baker, Charles Maitland and Janet Guy now, to name but a few? How can they justify the policies of economic ethnic cleansing that they pursued with such vigour during their time in power now that we are all left paying the price?
Before the arrival of the free press on Sark on 5th November 2009, anyone daring to stand up to Guille and his supporters would have been told to shut up if they knew what was good for them, or to depart on the infamous ‘boat that leaves in the morning.’ All of that changed for good when Sark resident Kevin Delaney took it upon himself to make a stand and give a voice to those who dared not speak out through fear of reprisals from Sark’s one-party state.
Published on Island from the basement of his home, La Friponnerie, The Sark Newspaper is owned, edited, printed and distributed by Delaney. An online flip-book edition is uploaded each week to the paper’s website. This comes at a not inconsiderable financial and personal cost to this Sark resident, who set up home here in the summer of 2007, but, nevertheless, The Sark Newspaper has become an essential part of the fabric of life on Sark.
Members and supporters of the one-party state claim not to read it, yet are remarkably well informed as to its content, particularly when they are personally being held accountable for their actions. Elected and unelected members of the current Chief Pleas are similarly remarkably well informed as to what the Island’s only free and independent newspaper has to say about them.
Most importantly, it is the people of Sark who, for the first time in over 450 years, are finally able to access a free and fearless press that holds those in power to account, that provides many of the stories and many of the causes that they want aired that are the bedrock upon which the editorial policies of The Sark Newspaper stand.
As an old, wise and remarkably perceptive, born and bred Islander told the Editor many years ago “without the newspaper we wouldn't know what they [Chief Pleas] were doing.”