|164873. Wed Apr 11, 2007 9:52 am
|It looks like Europe's last feudal state is no more:
"Democracy Comes To Sark, Centuries Late
SARK, England(CBS) The only way to the little Channel Island of Sark, 20 miles from France, is by boat. Among the more recent arrivals is something called democracy. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports.
“It’s for the good,” says Sark resident George Guille. “I think it’s for the good.”
But this change for the good was a long time coming. Until recently, Sark, a British possession of about 3.5 square miles and about 600 souls, was the last outpost of feudalism in the western world.
One man — known by the old French title of Seigneur, or Lord — controlled all the land based on rights granted by the original Queen Elizabeth in the year 1565.
“This is the last holdout of feudalism in Western Europe. Do you feel you let the side down a bit?” Phillips asks Michael Beaumont, the Seigneur of Sark.
“Well yes, a bit,” Beaumont laughs.
Under the old system, Michael Beaumont had it pretty good. He collected rents on the land and, along with a small elite, ran the place. For the privilege he paid the British Crown the equivalent of about $3.50 a year — raising the obvious question: Cash or check?
“Check,” Beaumont laughs.
It was — you might think — a recipe for revolution. Not here.
If you're looking for heroic tales of a repressed population rising up to storm the barricades and demand its long-denied democratic rights though, don't look to Sark. This place has resisted change the way it's resisted the winds and the seas. Inevitably though, it had to give way.
The irresistible force came in the form of European human rights law — one person one vote and all that. In a place where history moves at the speed of a horse and carriage — cars aren't allowed in Sark — the islanders had to make a choice. After much debate, they voted for democracy — by a narrow 56 to 44 percent margin.
“Lots of people think this is a great idea, but people like myself who are local, we get quite concerned because we are just wondering how it's going to affect us and how much more the island will change through these changes,” says Michelle Perree, a Sark resident.
Sark will change, all right. It will now be run by an elected assembly and publicly chosen officials.
“As revolutions go this may be the most velvet one of them all, I suppose,” says Phillips to Lt. Col. Reginal Guille, Sark’s chief government officer.
“We certainly haven't had any barricades in the street or banners wandering around, no,” Guille agrees with a laugh.
Yet, for the first time in four centuries, future generations here will be responsible for their own lives. Whether they like it or not."
Source: CBS News
|Frederick The Monk
|166954. Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:35 am
|This question was for the last but not used. Obviously it was written before Sark came over all democratic:
Question: Where am I describing:
There is no public health service
No old age pension
No private ownership of land
No mains water
Until 2003 there was a ban on divorce
No schooling provided beyond the age of 15
Every tenant must keep a gun
The ruler has announced that his country is definitely NOT a democracy.
The ruler is subject to another monarch to whom he pays £1.79 a year for the privilege.
You can't catch fish whilst scuba diving.
Only the ruler can keep unspayed female dogs and pigeons.
it sent two competitors to the 2006 Commonwealth games.....
Forfeits: Cuba/ Russia/ Libya/
Notes: Sark is the last Feudal state in Europe, although thanks to the sword of democracy currently being wielded by those champions of justice, the Barclay brothers, that may be about to change.
Since Elizabeth I's time, the island has been ruled by 22 "Seigneurs" - Elizabeth thought this a good way of keeping pirates at bay - under whom the 16th Century remains alive and well.
The Constitutional Steering Committee has come up with proposals for a new system of government based on election by universal suffrage. If it is approved by Chief Pleas, another poll will be held in December 2006 under the new rules.
Universal suffrage? South Africa and Iraq have beaten Sark to it, then, but this vote has come not on the back of military intervention, nor of a popular movement, but because of some new neighbours who just happen to be billionaires....
It's fair to say this is probably the first revolution initiated by a pair of identical twins in their 70s. In 1993, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, owners of the Ritz, Littlewoods and The Scotsman, bought Brecqhou - one of the islands off Sark - and built a £60m gothic-style fortress there.
Usually the reason people move to the Channel Islands is to avoid the UK's tax system, but the Barclays weren't enamoured of the equivalent on Sark: having to pay the Seigneur a "treizième" on their purchase - that's £179,000 in the new money.
Ever since, the twins have been fighting various parts of Sark's constitution, and claim to have spent £1.75m researching "Norman, feudal, constitutional and human rights law" and pushing to modernise the rules on tax, inheritance, and now, through their reference to the European Convention on Human Rights, the very nature of government.
The main problem they have is that Sark's 600 rsidents are rather pleased about living in their Feudal state. Their feeligns are summed up by the Seigneur (Michael Beaumont) who commented 'nothing much is human rights compliant here' and 'of course we will have to have a lot of civil servants now'.
Island cuts back feudal influence
The island with Europe's last feudal system has voted against completely abolishing the role of landowners in its government.
After an extraordinary meeting of Sark's parliament, the Chief Pleas, it agreed to reduce the number instead. Landowners will now be reserved 14 seats in the Chief Pleas, with the total number of seats on the body reduced from 52 to 28.
The other 14 seats will be made up of elected people's deputies. The public will also vote to decide which landowners are given seats.
The current set-up is that the legislature gives all 40 landowning tenants an automatic seat in Chief Pleas, with a further 12 seats for elected Deputies.
The measures were approved by 25 votes to 15 and the move follows European human rights laws which mean Sark can no longer be run in the same way. The island has come under pressure to adopt universal suffrage, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights
Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, who live on the nearby island of Brecqhou, petitioned the Queen's Privy Council that the current system breaches EU human rights laws.
That was rejected but the Sark government was told to rethink its plans. Some doubt remains whether the Privy Council will approve Wednesday's changes as having gone far enough.
But Sark's Seneschal, Reg Guille, said Chief Pleas are prepared to defend their decision in the European courts and a fund is being started to cover legal costs.
Links to: Democracy - Honey bees/ Deodands/ Domesday/ Dukes/Diplomatic Bags