its because he was the first spectacular example of bold-faced
dishonesty, but Johnny OHalloran has retained the mantle of corruption,
notwithstanding United National Congress challenges to his pre-eminence.
He publicly boasted of his illegal gambling, and only slightly less
openly of the women hed raped.
Caught having taken bribes in a Tesoro deal, OHalloran fled the
country and died a millionaire in Canada.
Of his many crimes, however, the most infamous was one of the earliest,
when he was Peoples National Movement Minister of Petroleum and
It took place in the early 1960s, when the newly-independent T&T
was moving away from rail transport and placing more emphasis on a car-driven
Senior Factory Inspector Kenneth Tam was using his veto over the location
of gas stations to encourage and profit from the fierce competition
between gasoline retailers.
Whereas gas stations were supposed to be evenly dispersed throughout
the country, Tams property speculation and bribery, with OHallorans
connivance, created the irrational situation we still live with today.
Three gas stations almost next to one another on Saddle Road, for instance,
and two almost opposite each other on Richmond Street. None between
Cumana and Matelot.
It became such a scandal that a Commission of Inquiry was set up in
Enter the Commissions star witness, 36-year-old Gene Miles, a
tall, glamorous, well-known beauty.
Miles came from a decent middle-class family.
Her brother was a minor Hollywood actor, her sister an economist, and
her father an accountant with the Ministry of Works.
She was very intelligent, flamboyant and attractive, says
one former civil servant who, disgusted by the bribery and insider trading,
secretly passed detailed information in the dead of night to Miles about
what was going on.
And thus, armed with irrefutable facts and statistics, Miles let the
cat out of the bag.
Perhaps she was partly motivated, as her attackers claimed, by having
been seduced and summarily dismissed by OHalloran.
But its more likely that her probity was inherited from her civic-minded
father, Ranny Miles.
In the late 1940s, when Miles was still a teen, Ranny Miles busted the
biggest scam of those colonial days the Caura Dam racket.
The Director of Hydraulics and several engineers in the Works Department,
who, according to a Commission of Inquiry, had systematically
defrauded the Government, were jailed.
That was during colonial times.
Now in the PNM reign, when Miles provided information about a similar
bobol, the response was different.
That is the true scandal.
While she was still giving evidence, the independent Public
Services Commission gave her a bad report and removed her annual increment.
She was also transferred from her post in the Factory Inspectorate.
It could not be seriously contended
that Mr Tam was not
responsible for the action that was taken against Miss Miles,
observed Commissioner Karl de la Bastide.
The rot wasnt so much the original bribery, but the brazen cover-up
and victimisation of Miles.
The slander campaign against her intensified.
Her irrefutable documentation was dismissed as rantings of a mad whore.
While she was being hounded out of the public service, PNM leaders argued
that one corrupt public servant did not make an entire government or
its Ministers dishonest.
As journalist Trevor Milletts BA thesis on Miles points out, however,
Miles detractors avoided making the necessary connections
between the Factory Inspectorate
and the Ministry of Petroleum
This was the PNM that had come to power 10 years earlier, vowing to
root out corruption.
Its Major Party Documents, reprinted in 1966, the same year the Gas
Station Inquiry was held, promised: Rigid maintenance of proper
standards of honesty, integrity and incorruptibility in the Public Service,
with the corollaries of:
(i) Denunciation, without fear or favour, of any deviation from these
(ii) Elimination of nepotism, favouritism and discrimination in the
appointments of the Public Service.
Even Justice de la Bastide, in his report, had to express surprise
that Mr Tams mode of operation
has escaped the notice of
the Ministry concerned for such a long time.
Tam eventually lost his job.
But the gas station bought in his father-in-laws name is still
there on La Puerta Avenue in Diego Martin, a few hundred yards from
the Four Roads gas station.
The businessmen who colluded with Tam are all multi-millionaires today.
Miles, on the other hand, found it impossible get another job.
Devastated by the outcome of the inquiry, she succumbed to chronic depression,
and took heavily to drink.
This was no jilted lover whose revenge was foiled, it was a girl betrayed
by her fathers ideals, a nationalist betrayed by her nation.
She neglected her appearance and fell out of, or was shunned by, society.
She still had her fathers home in Glencoe, so she never became
a vagrant, but was often seen wandering the city, bedraggled and drunk.
On December 9, 1972, Miles died of a heart attack. She was 42 years
Nearly two decades after, the axe-grinding National Alliance for Reconstruction
government, as ever doing the right thing at the wrong time and for
questionable reasons, thought to erect a statue to her with the paltry
sums returned from Tesoro.
The public rejected the plan, Yasin Abu Bakr stormed Parliament shortly
after, and Miles was forgotten by the subsequent PNM government.