14th February 2020


The advent of the 2008 Reform Laws was, in theory, set to usher in a bright new democratic future for the people of Sark. 450 years of feudal rule had, we were told, finally come to an end. The fear of falling foul of the powerful coterie of unelected state officials, headed up by the then Island judge and president of Chief Pleas, Reginald Guille, was over.

Over a decade later, it is clear that Guille and his supporters still believe that they wield sufficient power to ensure that democracy cannot take a hold in Sark effectively. Reginald Guille, the one-party state’s ‘chief enforcer’, who, only a little more than a year ago, was found guilty of inappropriately interfering in the electoral process by reducing a general election candidate to tears, is back. Guille has, to the disgust of the overwhelming number of decent thinking men and women in Sark, once again seized control of the Island’s parliament, courtesy of the dominance of a group of unelected would-be politicians who have not faced the electorate, have not received a single vote and who do not hold a mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf.

The return of the unelected Reginald Guille to power has dragged the Island’s reputation into disrepute. How can the Returning Officer for all general elections and by-elections, (but thankfully not the upcoming ballot of 4th March 2020), be a man who has been found guilty of bullying and harassing a prospective candidate in the December 2018 general election? At a time when Sark finds itself under ever-increasing scrutiny from a UK Ministry of Justice who do not miss any opportunity to illegitimately interfere in the Island’s internal affairs, Guille’s brazen contempt for democracy cannot and will not go unchallenged. However, this is a problem for the people of Sark, and them alone, to deal with via the ballot box.

At 2.00pm this afternoon nominations close for the by-election to be held on 4th March 2020 to fill the two vacant seats in Chief Pleas. It is imperative that a sufficient number of candidates come forward to ensure that Sark holds a fully contested democratic ballot. As of yesterday evening the SARK GAZETTE OFFICIELLE reported that no nominations had yet been received. Today, inside every copy of The Sark Newspaper, is a nomination form that prospective candidates can complete and hand in to the deputy Speaker of Chief Pleas and deputy Returning Officer of Sark - Paul Armorgie.

There is some confusion over the actual time that nominations close. Although the SARK GAZETTE OFFICIELLE states that: ‘Nominations close at 2.00pm on Friday 14th February 2020’, yet, only a few lines down on the same website page, it advises prospective candidates that their nomination form ‘….shall be completed by two persons and the candidate all of whose names shall be inscribed on the Electoral Register and shall be delivered by hand of one of the persons named on the form to the Deputy Speaker of Chief Pleas (Deputy Returning Officer), not later than 4.00pm on Friday 14th February 2020.

If in doubt prospective candidates should ring the deputy Returning Officer on 833028.

The upcoming by-election presents the people of Sark with the opportunity to express their will via the ballot box. This can only happen if sufficient candidates come forward for election.

The upcoming by-election gives the people of Sark the opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination. Sark is an autonomous jurisdiction with not only its own parliament but also its own police force, its own judges and its own court. The Island’s independence is enshrined in a Crown Lease held by our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. It is via the ballot box that Islanders can shape Chief Pleas, as they proved themselves capable of doing in the 2018 general election, the first to be contested in six years, when they rejected Reginald Guille’s close allies Edric and Diane Baker.

This was only possible because a group of mainly younger candidates had answered the call of The Sark Newspaper to ‘stand up and make a difference.’ The December 2018 general election was held under the office of the then Speaker of Chief Pleas and Returning Officer for Sark, Arthur Rolfe. Rolfe has since gone, and Chief Pleas is a poorer and infinitely less democratic place for his going. In a recent interview with BBC Radio Guernsey he articulated why Chief Pleas must change:

“What I hope is that the younger members that we brought in and the old stalwarts will continue but it’s an institution that does need to change. I have always believed in transparency in government. I believe parliaments all over the world, the democrat ones, and good ones, are the ones where people can actually go and listen to the debate and listen to the discussion. If anyone feels restricted who is a member of a Committee [in being required to debate in public] then they need to learn a bit about representation of the people.”

Today The Sark Newspaper once again calls upon Islanders to ‘stand up and make a difference’, and play a part in effecting that change.