17th August 2018
THOSE WHO DON’T CARE ABOUT THE FUTURE OF SARK AND ITS PEOPLE MUST NOW STAND ASIDE AND MAKE ROOM FOR THOSE WHO DO
The Island of Sark is divided like never before. A vast chasm has evolved between those who care about the future of the Island and its people and who want to do something about it, and those whose only interest is in retaining power at any cost. The unelected Reginald Guille and his supporters do not care and are holding the people of Sark to ransom with their tried and tested policies of division and entrenchment.
A decade of economic ethnic cleansing has left Sark’s economy on its knees and its peoples’ independence and right to self-determination under constant threat. Without an annual £2 million subsidy from our more powerful neighbouring Island of Guernsey, Sark’s exchequer would run out of cash in less than 12 months. This means that when Guernsey, in their own interest, force Sark to adopt Bailiwick-wide laws and regulations, in direct contravention of our autonomous status, our unelected would-be politicians are powerless to refuse.
The current state of the Island’s economy is not the work of chance or fate. It is the result of the lust for power of Reginald Guille, his ‘second-in-command’ Edric Baker and their supporters. Over the course of the past decade they have economically ethnically cleansed Sark of working men, women and families. In doing so they have strengthened the power of the infamous bloc vote which allows them to control the outcome of Sark’s sham elections.
Sark’s electoral system was carefully designed by the hard-line fundamentalist Reginald Guille and wingman Edric Baker. By means of the bloc vote, a mechanism by which a closely disciplined and organised grouping of less than 40% of the electorate select every member of the parliament, they ensure that great swathes of the people of Sark are without any political representation at all. Sark’s current electoral system, a system that is illegal in many jurisdictions around the world, is incapable of delivering a fully representative government. Indeed, it has not delivered an election, sham or otherwise, since December 2013. The Reform Law of 2008 promised the people of Sark elections every two years and by-elections to fill empty seats. The reality is that we haven't seen a ballot box in Sark in five years.
The Island’s current electoral system is unfit-for-purpose and has been proven to be incapable of delivering a fully representative democratically elected government. An electoral system allows a collection of unelected would-be politicians to pass laws and make legislation without a single member having faced the electorate, let alone received a single vote, is clearly deeply flawed. There is no honour amongst the current membership of Chief Pleas. If there were, not one of the unelected members would take their seat in the house. The fact that they are willing to make laws and pass legislation without first having received a mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf speaks volumes of their contempt for democracy.
An appalling price has been paid by the people of Sark for the unelected Reginald Guille and his supporters’ policies of economic ethnic cleansing. Hundreds of jobs have been destroyed resulting in an unprecedented depopulation of the Island. The number of year-round residents has fallen over 40% from over 650 in December 2008 to below 390 today. This has resulted in fewer and fewer taxpayers paying higher and higher taxes to finance the policies of division and entrenchment which are the hallmark of a decade of control by Guille and his supporters. During their ten years of power direct taxes have risen by 52%, whilst at the same time property taxes have risen by 116%.
The unelected Reginald Guille and his supporters’ interpretation of the responsibilities of government bears no resemblance to that of democratically elected governments the world over. People expect their governments to promote prosperity and quality of life. They expect their politicians to protect local businesses, create jobs and introduce measures to stabilise and grow the economy. They demand that their governments plan for economic growth that will deliver a fit-for-purpose infrastructure and social care for the sick, the elderly and the less fortunate.
Guille, his ‘second-in-command’ Edric Baker and their supporters have used the destruction of the Island’s economy as a powerful weapon with which to hold onto power. By destroying local businesses, destroying jobs and refusing to grow the economy they have driven hundreds of independently minded working men and women off Sark. Consequently they have concentrated the power of the bloc vote, the means by which they control who is and who isn’t selected to sit alongside them in in their parliament. Every man or woman driven off Sark through lack of work is one less vote over which they have no control.
The future prosperity of Sark and its people has always been and will always be about the strength of its economy. A strong economically sound Sark will see the creation of hundreds of jobs, the regrowth of the population and the lowering of taxes. Most importantly, it ensures that the Island is financially independent. This is critical to our independence, our right to self-determination and Sark’s precious autonomy.
Until the arrival of the current Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, in July 2016, many people had come to the conclusion that Sark should be dismissed as a basket case. They had written Sark off as an autonomous jurisdiction under the control of unelected despots such as Reginald Guille and Edric Baker, who simply did not care that they were leading the Island onto an irreversible trajectory of self-destruction.
Christopher Beaumont has done what many thought impossible. He has given huge swathes of the Island’s population a reason to believe that Guille, Baker and their supporters’ policies of division and entrenchment have no place in his Sark. By calling for engagement and inclusion with all stakeholders in the Island’s future, he has shown that he truly cares about the future of Sark and its people.
Last December Major Christopher Beaumont, set out before members and guests of Sark’s Chamber of Commerce how he is going to lead this Island out of a decade of economic stagnation:
“We strongly take the view that Sark’s economic future lies with tourism. Tourists are attracted to Sark by its existing, unspoilt, rural character, natural beauty and distinctiveness politically and constitutionally. People like the idea of this very beautiful, tranquil and uniquely British island with its roots deep in Norman and Elizabethan history. These are its principal selling points; it would be madness to jeopardise them.”
On the critical question of a Customs post for Sark in order to open up the Island’s tourist industry to the vast markets of mainland Europe, he had this to say:
“SEM [the company that manages the Barclay family’s business interests in Sark] have generously offered to put the facility in place. What I want to hear from the Guernsey Border Agency is how should we manage it, if we do it?”
Christopher Beaumont also sowed the seeds of Sark taking control of its own borders:
“Could we be outside? Could we be a separate entity altogether? We might be able to do that. We might not.”
So much of what the Seigneur had to say on that dark, damp December evening resonated with the people of Sark. Having suffered a decade of economic ethnic cleansing at the hands of Guille, Baker and their supporters, one can only imagine how welcome Christopher Beaumont’s views on the need to repopulate the Island were received:
“….it would be fantastic to have the permanent population moved upwards. So, it would be better for all of us if we were between 750 and 800 is my thought. I don’t think that we could sustain more than about 1,000.”
Mr Beaumont spoke for the silent majority when he challenged Sark’s unelected would-be politicians’ failure to deal with the over 100 heavy tractors which continue to tear up our already unfit-for-purpose roads:
“...if all of the tractors were full that would be one thing but I see so many empty tractors. If they were always coming back from being full I would see half of them being full and then I would sort of feel okay about it but there are too many tractor journeys and you could use other forms of transport. I would much prefer to see small electrically operated 4x4’s towing a trailer for small value, small weight, and a lot of journeys are.”
Once again Christopher Beaumont spoke for the overwhelming majority of Islanders when calling for the government to:
“… move the incinerator from where it is to a new site. It is absolutely not in the right place to have it down at the Harbour Hill. That is the gateway to the Island.”
True to his word, Christopher Beaumont proved his determination to engage with all stakeholders in Sark’s future when he confirmed that he had lunched with Sir David Barclay and opened up a dialogue. No doubt foremost in our Seigneur’s mind was an earlier public statement made by Brecqhou in which it was made clear that:
“We want to see a thriving, peaceful, successful and autonomous Sark. There have been bitter disagreements over the Constitution but we suggest that everyone is united in wanting the best for Sark. Sark and Brecqhou have a very large measure of common interest. They are much stronger standing together than divided and more able to secure a better future for Sark.”
It is not hard to see where the future prosperity of Sark and its people lies. It is not with those who want to engineer another decade of division and entrenchment. It is with those who care.