|7th August 2020
THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN
THEY DON’T TRUST A RETURNING OFFICER WHO
HAS A HISTORY OF INTIMIDATING CANDIDATES
At midday last Friday nominations closed for Sark’s latest by-election. Four seats being vacant in the Island’s 18-seat parliament - Chief Pleas. Of the 14 sitting Conseillers, only seven had faced the electorate having been voted into office in December 2018 in a fully contested general election under the stewardship of the then Returning Officer and Speaker of Chief Pleas, the late Arthur Rolfe. The remaining seven members still have not faced the electorate, have not received a single vote via the ballot box and do not hold a mandate from the people of Sark to govern.
The by-election, scheduled for 19th August 2020, presented the people of Sark with the opportunity to express their democratic will, and express it they did. By refusing to engage with the electoral process and by coming forward in sufficient numbers to deliver a fully contested by-election, they have issued a clear message, they do not trust the current Returning Officer.
Who can blame them? It is unacceptable that the people of Sark are expected to welcome the former serviceman Reginald Guille, as the Returning Officer for their democratic elections when he has a long history of intimidating men and women who he disapproves of who come forward as candidates. It is common knowledge that Guille accused candidates in the 2008 elections of being paid to stand. A scurrilous and wholly unfounded accusation that exposes the mindset of a man who firmly believes that here on Sark, he is the first amongst equals.
Surveying the wreckage of his attempt to hold a by-election, Reginald Guille desperately sought to put a positive spin on the disaster, courtesy of a piece in the Guernsey Press. With more than a hint of irony the paper reported:
‘Speaker of Chief Pleas Reg Guille, who was also the by-election’s returning officer, said it was disappointing that only two candidates stood, but he was pleased that the Assembly now had nine candidates who will serve until 2023:
“At least we have a full half of parliament ready to go for the next two years,” he said.’
It was only six months ago that the Guernsey Press spelled out, in no uncertain terms, just how abhorrent the decision, taken by a largely unelected Chief Pleas, to install Guille as Speaker of the House and Returning Officer for elections was.
Guille’s unsuitability to hold public office was finally and unequivocally driven home when he was exposed by Sark’s Code of Conduct Panel for interfering in the 2018 general election, by intimidating a candidate at a husting, reducing the man in question to tears. The panel, consisting of His Honour, David Brunning, the Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, Miss Lucy Belfield, Dr Richard Axton and Mrs Hazel Fry, handed down their decision on 2nd April 2019. They concluded:
‘A husting event is an occasion for robust and forthright exchanges of opinions on policies and for reasoned discussions between candidates and electors. It has long been a part of the democratic process, but there is a line between such exchanges and what is personal abuse and behaviour which is threatening.
Conseiller Guille has great experience of the workings of Chief Pleas and is a powerful and influential figure in its operation. Whilst chair of the Policy & Finance Committee, the most significant of committees, Conseiller Guille held strong views on the legitimacy of Mr Doyles’ candidature. What he said and the manner of it was we are satisfied done to intimidate Mr Doyle. He questioned the legitimacy of Mr Doyles’ candidature even though he knew it was lawful. We accept and find as truthful Mr Doyles’ evidence that:
“He made it clear that he would be against me from the very start and I felt unnerved to go on speaking as the others did. He made me feel belittled and entirely unwelcomed to Chief Pleas.”’
It is a simple statement of fact that Reginald Guille is the least suitable person on Sark to be the Returning Officer for the Island’s elections. Unless he either resigns, or is forcibly removed from office, we will not attract enough fresh candidates to hold a contested general election in December. The people have spoken, they do not want or trust Reginald Guille.