Standing Up For The Jersey Way

"I have often wondered why it is that an insignificant, tiny Island should, from time to time, produce considerable numbers of men and women of outstanding character and ability, wholly disparate to its size. Is it something we have inherited from our Norman ancestors, although diluted over the years by French, English and other strains? Or is it that Islanders, such as we, in their formative years tend to be left to fend for themselves perhaps more than in larger societies? Again, is it that our schools...have maintained a consistency in standards of education and behaviour which other, less fortunate places, have not been able to do?"

- Sir Peter Crill CBE, Bailiff of Jersey 1986-1995

One is appalled to note the proliferation of local websites whose sole purpose seems to be to drag the island's fine name through the mud - or to borrow a phrase, to 'shaft Jersey internationally'.

Thus one has resolved to correct this imbalance. This 'blog' is dedicated to projecting a more positive image of our island, and to celebrating the tireless efforts of the exceptional men and women who have helped make Jersey the stable prosperous and contented community it is today.

Correspondents are encouraged to leave their own messages of gratitude and support for our selfless and devoted leaders...

Friday, 23 April 2010

The Sword of Truth and the Trusty Shield of Fair Play

While one understands why Sir Winston Churchill (that glorious man!) once opined that "democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried", one suspects that he may well have revised his opinion had he become better acquainted with what we affectionately refer to as 'The Jersey Way'.

For while in many respects Jersey retains all the outward trappings of a modern society capable of acting as a central player in the world's financial system, our island has also managed to retain many of the beneficial characteristics of preindustrial societies which have helped to maintain continued stability and ensure that power remains firmly in the hands of those best equipped to exercise it responsibly.

One can certainly see this principle at work in the operation of our legal system. For example, one of the great virtues of Jersey equity is its unique flexibility and the latitude the Court is granted to ensure that justice is done - but only for those who are deemed worthy of the Court's indulgence.

Indeed that this is a longstanding and central tenet of Jersey equity is clearly evidenced by the Orders of the Royal Commissioners of 1591:

" is provided that adultery, be it man or woman, who shall be thereof convicted, shall be imprisoned for the space of three weeks, and during that time shall be publicly punished in the market-place, by being put in the stocks from nine o'clock in the morning to three in the afternoon, and shall afterwards be whipped to the effusion of blood..."

However the Court retains the latitude to moderate its punishment as it sees fit:

"...provided nevertheless that if it should happen to any of the members of the States, or any other person of reputation, it shall rest in the power and discretion of justice to commute the corporal punishment into a pecuniary fine..."

Therefore if the use of the stocks and public floggings have somewhat regrettably fallen into disuse, one is comforted to note that at least Jersey's courts have successfully withstood the politically correct notion that all men are are equal before the law.

This is not to say however that from time to time the island's stability and prosperity is not threatened on occasion by what one may describe as its own 'enemy within'. At such times it is necessary for the unique set of checks and balances between the various institutions encompassing the judiciary, the executive, the legislature, the civil service as well as the police force, and the Fourth Estate to act in concert to protect our cherished freedoms and civilized values.

Thus any would be rabble rouser and barrack room lawyer can not expect to enact change merely by virtue of being elected to the States assembly. As Deputies Pitman and Southern discovered to their not inconsiderable cost last year the island's courts will not stand idly by when the island's unique democratic system is threatened.

And of course one can not ignore the ongoing antics of the island's most notorious demagogue of recent times, former senator Stuart Syvret, who is even now attempting to create further mayhem by standing in the by-election that his own behaviour provoked.

Quite apart from the fact that one is aghast to see him try to hijack a local election for political purposes, one fears that in his current state of mind Mr Syvret's candidature risks reducing the poll into some kind of circus freak show.

As one has remarked previously Mr Syvret probably should be detained in a padded cell rather than a police cell, and one hardly believes that St Saviours Hospital is a suitable venue for sittings of the States assembly.

One prays for Mr Syvret's moral and spiritual redemption in the hope that the Almighty can make him see the error of his ways and lead him to the path of righteousness, much as He did with the former US President Bush.

If he were to do so, even at this late stage one believes that if he were to return to face the States assembly and make a genuine and heartfelt apology for his appalling conduct and appeal to the Christian charity and compassion of our leaders, one feels that Mr Syvret could still, even now, be forgiven.

But if he continues on his present course, one sincerely hopes that the island's finest legal minds, those diligent and vigilant guarantors of our freedoms, have already identified the legal grounds that would prevent Mr Syvret's divisive candidature.

In the event he were permitted to stand out some misguided respect of the island's democratic traditions, one sincerely hopes that he is opposed by one of the island's political heavyweights, one of our elder statesmen possessing the stature and gravitas necessary to put Mr Syvret and his acolytes in their place once and for all.

And only one name comes to mind. Is it too much for us to ask Mr Frank Walker to return and fight one last battle on behalf of the island he loves and has served so loyally? That he should return to pick up what was once so memorably termed 'the sword of truth and trusty shield of fair play' to slay the dragon of dissent and subversion once and for all?

One still savours the memory of Mr Walker's heroic performance on the BBC's 'Newsnight' programme at the height of the Haut de la Garenne controversy. He is clearly a man for a crisis, as much as Sir Winston Churchill was in 1940. The comparison is apt, for Mr Syvret and his motley menagerie of followers represent the greatest threat to the island's well being since the Nazi invaders of 1940.

Naturally Mr Walker's victory would surely be a foregone conclusion. But, the battle won, would it be just to keep him from enjoying his richly merited retirement travels in the company of his fragrant wife by requiring him to attend States sitting every two weeks?

One readily admits that to some Mr Walker's absence may seem somewhat ironic, given the circumstances that triggered the by-election, but one only need refer back to 1591: Mr Walker is unarguably the 'person of reputation' the Royal Commissioners had in mind, just as much as Mr Syvret is not.

Of course, this is Jersey where the rule of law is paramount and must be seen to follow its due course.

Therefore one suggests a compromise that would satisfy all parties.

In its wisdom, perhaps the Royal Court could enquire whether it would not be too onerous for Mr Walker to send back a postcard updating his colleagues in the States assembly of the progress of his travels each and every two weeks?

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