Unity Government deny claims that it canceled Ellis Thomas Downs lease | Island Sun

Unity Government deny claims that it canceled Ellis Thomas Downs lease

Caption: A northern view of the Ellis Thomas Downs from the horse stables 

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

In a rebuke of an online story posted a day earlier, the Unity Government last Thursday afternoon, issued a statement that it “remains committed” to continuing efforts to resolve all outstanding issues with the Thomas family regarding the use of their land, which forms a portion of Ellis Thomas Downs, and they “did not cancel” the lease as stated in the story.

The saga that began on Sept 8, saw horse races scheduled for Sept 18, being canceled and four horses from St. Thomas that had been in the territory since early September, returning to their home base last Wednesday.

The government’s statement advised the public that negotiations are currently ongoing and that the government “looks forward” to those negotiations “continuing in good faith” between all parties involved. 

Following the Virgin Islands News Online publication’s claim that the lease had been canceled according to communication with the family, Island Sun Sports made several efforts to contact Marie Elaine Thomas-Griffin who represents the family in the dispute and said the lease had been canceled, according to the publication, but she did not respond to any of our calls or messages.

The statement further said that in these circumstances, it is not the government’s intention to engage in any protracted public debate on issues, which are likely to arise during the negotiations and the government considers that to do so, at this stage, may well be counterproductive or prejudicial. This notwithstanding, following the statements to the press by the Thomas family, the government considers it necessary to publicly respond in an effort to bring clarity to certain matters, for the record. 

According to the statement, a meeting to discuss a rent review with the Thomas family was held on September 8. Shortly after the meeting commenced, premier Natalio Wheatley 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. 

“At the meeting, the government representatives did not “cancel” the lease with the Thomas family” the statement assured. “Rather, fundamental legal issues were raised and ultimately, the Thomas family indicated that they would not allow further use of their property.  The family stated this to be a non-negotiable position, and the government accepted.”  Accordingly, the government issued a public notice on the evening of September 8, advising the public not to use the property in question until further notice. 

The inconvenience to the public is deeply regretted, the statement noted and  the government “remains committed” to using its best endeavors to achieve a speedy resolution of all issues; however, any resolution must be fair to all parties involved and in the public’s interest. 

The BVI government noted that it has been informed of threats against the Thomas family and “condemns, in the strongest terms,” any threats of violence made against the family, and expects that any such threats will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.