Committees up for grabs
Saturday 5th January 2013, 10:00AM GMT.
THE often-thankless task of governing Sark kicks off again next week.THE often-thankless task of governing Sark kicks off again next week.
The Seneschal’s Court meets on Friday morning to administer the oath of office to the 14 conseillers successful in last month’s general election.
No sooner is that ceremony over than the Toplis Room at the Island Hall will be transformed from a courtroom to a legislature when those 14 public spirited residents will be joined by their 13 fellow conseillers (who all have two years remaining of their four-year terms of office) for an extraordinary meeting of Chief Pleas at which committee vacancies will be filled.
Although there should be 28 elected representatives in Chief Pleas, there is currently one vacancy, Conseiller Chris Bateson, pictured, having resigned last month. I have not yet had the opportunity to talk at any length with Chris about his resignation, but he has been extremely critical for some considerable time about the way in which the island’s government disseminates information to Sark residents. Or, to be more accurate, fails to do so.
I strongly suspect the sense of frustration he felt over this and associated matters contributed to his resignation. It will be of some consolation for him to know that very many residents share his deep concern about both the level of outside interference in Sark’s domestic affairs and the way in which islanders learn of far-reaching decisions made in their name.
I and other regular attendees at Chief Pleas will miss his commonsense approach to all manner of things and the pithy comments which frequently accompanied that approach.
However, there will be no need for the unsuccessful candidates in last month’s election to sharpen their manifestos just yet, as there is no requirement to call a by-election to fill one casual vacancy. Seneschal Reg Guille told me earlier this week that the assembly can call a by-election for two such vacancies and must do so if there are three.
Chief Pleas will sit again on 16 January for the scheduled Christmas meeting, with an agenda of no fewer than 23 items to be dealt with. Several are what might be termed housekeeping matters, while others – notably those relating to extending Bailiwick legislation to Sark – are unlikely to take up too much of members’ time.
Among the more interesting of the other items will be the proposition relating to the role of the president of Chief Pleas, which follows the splitting of the dual duties of the seneschal as ‘speaker’ of the legislature and lay magistrate in the Seneschal’s Court.
Personally, I have never seen the need to split these functions and for evidence, one need look no further than what happens in both Guernsey and Jersey with the role of the Bailiff.
There may well be an issue with the way the appointment of seneschal is made, but that is an altogether different matter – although one which had a perhaps disproportionate effect on the eminent legal brains sitting on the British Court of Appeal.
Congratulations are in order for Olympic gold medallist Carl Hester, who was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire last week.
It’s a nice thought that he joins his granny, Pam Cocksedge, in the list of MBE recipients.
Before I close, a pat on the collective back for Sark’s carol singers, who braved the elements to raise more than £1,300 with their musical perambulations around the island – a tremendous achievement in not the easiest of economic times.
And also a confession from this absent-minded columnist that he seriously misjudged the start time of the annual Dave Cocksedge and PJ Carre sporting extravaganza on New Year’s Day.
However, with luck there will be a report and pictures next week.
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