18th January 2019
“I WILL NOT BE APPEARING BEFORE ANY CODE OF CONDUCT PANEL” SARK’S UNELECTED ‘CHIEF MINISTER’ REGINALD GUILLE – 16th JANUARY 2019
Wednesday’s meeting of Chief Pleas was hallmarked once again by a failure to get on with governing the Island and sorting out the mess that we find ourselves in and instead focusing on administrative process, at the expense of any meaningful progress. Predictably it was the Island’s unelected ‘chief minister’ Reginald Guille who dominated proceedings. Before the business of the day got underway he rose to deliver what has become a permanent fixture in each and every meeting of the Island’s parliament, the thoughts of ‘Uncle’ Reg.
“Yesterday on my return home in the late afternoon after a morning preparing for a meeting at 5.30 yesterday evening, I opened a letter addressed to me. The letter informed me that I was to be subjected to an investigation under the Code of Conduct bought by Mr Michael Doyle, a convicted criminal. Let me put my side of the issue and use my freedom of speech because, I WILL NOT BE APPEARING BEFORE ANY CODE OF CONDUCT PANEL.”
Guille then proceeded to lay out the background behind his latest outburst.
“Last year during the election process, and after the period that nominations had opened, Mr Doyle telephoned me on Sunday 18th November to ask if there was any reason why he should not stand as a candidate; he had served his prison sentence and was out on licence and reporting to a probation officer. I told him that I did not know but I thought it unwise as, under certain circumstances, he could be returned to prison, but suggested that he should speak to his probation officer. I then looked at our Reform Law and could not find any reason in the Law to prevent him standing.”
That, one would expect, should have been an end to the matter. Michael Doyle, who would go on to produce one of the most detailed and comprehensive manifestos ahead of December’s General Election, the first to be held in the past six years, was indeed eligible to stand. That the law confirmed this was not good enough for Guille. He immediately embarked on a campaign to deny the rights of the electorate to decide whether or not they wanted Michael Doyle to represent them in the Island’s parliament.
Who is Guille to determine who the electorate is allowed to consider for a seat in their government? By Guille’s own admission Michael Doyle was perfectly entitled to stand and the electorate were entitled to consider his manifesto and decide via the ballot box whether or not they wanted him in their government. What followed was a long rambling account by Guille of exchanges of emails between himself, the Speaker of Chief Pleas and Her Majesty’s Comptroller in Guernsey. Each communication was read out word by word and will, in the fullness of time, be available to the public when the Hansard report of Wednesday’s meeting is published in a few weeks’ time.
For now, it is suffice to summarise that, in an email from Her Majesty’s Comptroller on the 22nd November 2018 at 19.51, Guille received a definitive confirmation of the legal position:
“On the basis that Mr Doyle is over 18, his name is inscribed in the Electoral Register, he is eligible to stand.”
Refusing to accept that his opinion did not outrank that of the Law Officers Guille continued with his campaign to deny the electorate of Sark the right to decide who they should and who they shouldn't be allowed to vote for. He attempted to build his case around the events of the evening of 10th December 2018 when what passed for a Sark-style elections hustings was held at the Island Hall:
“Only he [Michael Doyle] and I were involved in this private conversation which he then put on Facebook and Sark Classified that same evening, using some pretty foul language, and then that paragon of unbiased reporting, the Sark Newsletter, published his round in their next edition.”
Guille and Doyle were not involved in a private conversation. The exchange happened at a public gathering in a public venue and many in attendance have, and will, bear witness to the distressed state Michael Doyle found himself in following Guille’s attack on him. In respect of Guille’s complaints against the alleged bias of free press in Sark one can only observe ‘he would say that, wouldn't he?’
On 5th November 2009 Sark resident Kevin Delaney published his first newspaper, a publication that has turned more than 450 years of feudal rule on its head. By daring to hold up a mirror to the actions of those in power and simply report what it sees, it has shaken Guille and his supporters to the core. In days gone by Guille’s way would have been the only way. If he wanted someone gone from Sark they would have been condemned to skulking away on the infamous ‘boat that leaves in the morning.’ As a direct result of the free press on Sark those days have gone, and they are not coming back.
Before returning to the exit of Reginald Guille from Sark’s government, it is worth reflecting that it was Guille himself, in his capacity of Seneschal of Sark, who had, in the past, previously acted as notary for Doyle’s mountain of unregulated financial services paperwork. Guille and Doyle pocketed a small fortune from this dubious trade but never paid a penny of tax from their earnings into the Island’s exchequer. Guille concluded his long rambling diatribe with:
“I see from the papers sent to me yesterday, he put a Code of Conduct report against me on or about 18th December. MR SPEAKER, YOU MAY STAND YOUR CODE OF CONDUCT PANEL DOWN AS YOU WILL HAVE MY LETTER OF RESIGNATION AS A CONSEILLER OF CHIEF PLEAS AT THE END OF THIS MEETING TO BE EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY.”
What followed was perhaps the single most important statement delivered in Chief Pleas in the dark decade since the introduction of the flawed Reform Laws of 2008. The Speaker, Arthur Rolfe, in a calm measured tone, simply told it as it is:
“Can I just say that I had no concept from you, Conseiller Reginald Guille, that that was the subject of your statement and as the Returning Officer for the elections I took professional advice and accepted Michael Doyle as a fully eligible candidate. Regarding the Code of Conduct, when you say your Code of Conduct it happens to be Chief Pleas’ Code of Conduct; it was passed by Chief Pleas and I am sorry to hear that you feel that somehow or another you are not bound by it. Actually you are and so is everybody else in this chamber.”
History will record that this curmudgeonly but thoroughly decent man did not fail in his duty to stand up for the sovereignty of Chief Pleas and the rights of the people of Sark to enjoy open, transparent and accountable governance. Guille was left in no doubt that, contrary to his own beliefs, he is not the first amongst equals. For the past decade Guille has cast himself as the single point of failure within Sark’s government.
He has engineered a situation where he has convinced his followers that he is indispensable. During the latter years of the life of our late Seigneur, Michael Beaumont, Guille bullied and cajoled the man into a course of action that would result in a decade of lost opportunity for the people of Sark. Guille hoodwinked the late Seigneur and the members of Chief Pleas into believing that, if he was not at hand to ‘advise’ them, they would be incapable of governing. He has seen off Belinda Crowe, Colin Kniveton and, of late, the independent Senior Administrator Kath Jones. It is a poorly concealed fact that Guille bullied Jones throughout her tenure of office for daring to challenge his ways.
The reality is that no organisation, company or government can allow itself to be at the mercy of an individual like Guille. It is reckless to allow a single person in any organisation to hold so much power that their position is above challenge or reproach. Now that Guille has gone Chief Pleas are liberated from his all-consuming and bullying control. The Sark Newspaper predicts that the newly democratically elected members, and, perhaps many of those who retain their seats, despite having no mandate from the people of Sark to govern, will find that government without Reginald Guille is not only possible, but far more effective.
Guille never understood that fully representative governance means governing for the betterment of all of the people, not just himself and his supporters. When the Island needed to embrace engagement and inclusion his policies of intolerance, division and entrenchment delivered nothing but economic hardship. When welcoming unelected Conseillers in the Chief Pleas meeting of Christmas 2015, before standing down as the president of Chief Pleas in 2016, he declared:
“I urge all the new, returning and sitting Conseillers to continue to govern Sark for the benefit of all residents in our Island home and not be swayed from that course by outside pressure or by minority groups; you govern for the majority and for the good of Sark. Please don’t be rushed but consider carefully to ensure that the electorate’s support has been obtained.”
Guille has never faced the electorate. He has never ensured that the electorate’s support has been obtained. The truth is that Guille has gone because he knows only too well what the rest of the Island knows. The Michael Doyle complaint is merely a sideshow. He was the man no one voted for and no one wanted. A cunning and calculated political-mover he has elected to skulk away from Chief Pleas before the humiliation of the people of Sark unceremoniously throwing him out became a reality.