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‘National tragedy that there is no horse racing today’ - Dr Michael A. Turnbull

‘National tragedy that there is no horse racing today’ - Dr Michael A. Turnbull

Reverend Dr. Michael A. Turnbull aka 'Dr Mike' who is the brother of Legislator, Hon Melvin M. Turnbull (R2) has called a ‘National Tragedy’ the fact that there is no boxing day races today, December 26, 2022, in the Virgin Islands (VI).

Since November 2022, the President of the VI Horse Owners Association Mr Lesmore Smith revealed that the races will not happen given the impasse between the Government of the Virgin Islands (VI) and the Thomas family that owns a portion of land that accommodates Ellis Thomas Downs at Sea Cows Bay.


Since November 2022, President of the VI Horse Owners Association Mr Lesmore Smith revealed that the races will not happen given the impasse between the Government of the Virgin Islands (VI) and the Thomas family that owns a portion of land that accommodates Ellis Thomas Downs at Sea Cows Bay.

Writing was already on wall

According to Mr Smith, who was at the time a guest on JTV, November 22, 2022 edition of The Big Story (TBS) the conclusion of no races for 2022, came following a discussion with Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D Wheatley (R7) on Sunday, November 20, 2022.

According to Dr Turnbull in a post today, December 26, 2022, an entire cultural tradition in VI has been hijacked by a few and neglected by others.

The Unity Government led by Premier Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) in September 2022 had said that it was committed to resolving outstanding issues with the Thomas family regarding the use of their land, which forms a part of Ellis Thomas Downs. 

Gov't cancelled contract - Thomas Family 

In a bombshell disclosure on September 14, 2022, Elaine M. Thomas-Griffith, the daughter of the late Ellis Thomas, told Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) that the Unity Government ‘unilaterally’ made the decision to cancel the contract.

The meeting allegedly involved Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Hon Melvin M. Turnbull (R2) members of the Attorney General’s chambers, and other representatives of government, whose involvement and portfolio involve crown lands. 

According to Thomas-Griffith, the family expected the meeting would be to discuss issues involving the lease between the family and the Government of the Virgin Islands for the use of Ellis Thomas Downs track. 

“When we arrived for that meeting, literally at the inception of the meeting, it was announced to us that our contract was being cancelled on the premise of a technicality, a unilateral statement with no advanced notice to us. I am not at liberty to get into the specific details of the alleged technicality but, suffice it to say, that the pronouncement was made to our family with no warning on the eve of what would be another race day, that the contract was cancelled,” Thomas-Griffith said. 

Lease never cancelled - Unity Gov't 

The Government, however, has responded with a different version of events, first stating that the meeting with the Thomas family took place on September 8, 2022 where the main purpose was to discuss a rent review.  

“Unfortunately, shortly after the meeting commenced, the Honourable Premier and other Ministers present had to excuse themselves due to certain developments concerning the late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Members of the Attorney General’s Chambers and officers in the Ministry responsible for Crown Lands continued the meeting”. 

The statement added that at the meeting, the Government representatives did not ‘cancel’ the lease with the Thomas family.

Legally take the land - Ms Parsons to Gov't 

Given the impasse, avid horse racing fan Ms Eileene L. Parsons, OBE had advocated for the Government to legally take the land from the Thomas family after neither of the parties could come to an agreement on the way forward.

Opposition Leader and Third District Representative Hon Julian Fraser RA (R3) in response shunned the idea of compulsory acquisition of land at Ellis Thomas Downs.

“People run their mouths because they don’t have a business to run and I am speaking from reality. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for government to want to acquire that property through compulsory acquisition,” he said.
Given the impasse, avid horse racing fan Ms Eileene L. Parsons, OBE had advocated for the Government to legally take the land from the Thomas family after neither of the parties could come to an agreement on the way forward.


Hon Fraser shuns idea of compulsory land acquisition 

The Opposition Leader also noted that people were complaining that the government is paying the Thomas family for a lease and that the government should buy the land instead of paying for the lease.

“Well tell them to go up in Road Town and other parts of Tortola where the government is leasing office space from people and paying people and there is no indication that government will ever give those spaces back,” he added.

Opposition Leader and Third District Representative Hon Julian Fraser RA (R3) has maintained that Government should shun the idea of compulsory acquisition of land at Ellis Thomas Downs, as is being advocated by avid horse racing fan Eileene L. Parsons, OBE.

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