Saturday, February 23, 2008

Feudalism ends

Politicians in the Channel Island of Sark have agreed to end the island's feudal system of government which has been in place for the past 450 years. Governing body, the Chief Pleas, has approved new reform laws which will lead to the introduction of a 28-member elected chamber. Elections under the new constitution will be held in December.

Sark, 80 miles off the south coast, had been governed by a mix of landowners and elected people's deputies. There was pressure on Sark to reform its feudal constitution to comply with the European Human Rights laws and other international obligations.

Owners of the island's 40 tenements (divisions of land) currently have an automatic seat in the Chief Pleas, and islanders chose 12 people's deputies. The first new assembly of Chief Pleas will take place in January next year.

Deputy Paul Armorgie said: "It's a great relief. We have been trying to achieve this for 10 years and now a line has been drawn. Sark is finally moving from feudalism to democracy."

Sark, which is only 3 miles (4.8km) long and 1.5 miles (2.4k) wide, has a resident population of about 600.

Its government can directly trace its roots back to Queen Elizabeth I, who once granted the ruling "Seigner" a fief on the tiny Channel Island. The unelected descendents of 40 families brought in to colonise Sark, after the French abandoned it in 1553, have governed life on the island ever since.

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