Ryan and fellow columnist, Dr Hamid Ghany both expressed their views on Sunday September 9 on two national topics that continue to attract national attention: Dr Ryan on the origin of our national awards and Dr Ghany on the destruction of Gene Miles, for exposing the culprit(s) in the infamous Gas Station Racket.
Professor Ryan on the basis of information from my friend Roy Mitchell stated, “it could safely be said that Geddes Granger was the father of the national awards and not Eric Williams.” I wish to completely disagree with my friend. Neither Williams nor Daaga was responsible for what is now referred to as our national awards.
Long before the arrival of these two citizens, we were the recipients of awards which were national in scope, but colonial in name, structure and presentation – KCMG, MBE, OBE. As colonial citizens, every year we looked forward on the King’s/Queen’s birthday to the list of awardees. Except for the odd colonial public servant expatriate, sugarcane executive or expatriate energy executive, the awardees were colonials of local origin. Some of our citizens – former colonials – now nationals are still in possession of these prestigious awards, inclusive of Knighthoods and so on.
With the arrival of Independence in 1962, this had to be changed to national awards which was inevitable. It was finally changed in 1969, like all the other former colonial territories that obtained Independence before and after the Second World War. These awards, except for the change of names, were inherited from our colonial past; like most other honour rolls and awards – national or otherwise – whether they be at the religious, educational, sporting or business levels.
With all due respect to Ryan, it is incorrect to quote: “Williams realised that there were new ‘heroes’ on the block, competing for legitimacy and political space, and it is in this context that he set out to establish an awards system, which was more sensitive to the changed mood. Granger had forced his hand.” I merely wish to ask my friend, who forced the hands of our other Caribbean and post-colonial world leaders, who all changed inherited colonial awards to accompany their new status of nationhood?
Lest we forget, the original target of the Black Power Movement was not Dr Williams, and the PNM it was the powerful Christian churches and the discriminatory practices of the predominantly Caucasian private sector.
Now, I do not know if Dr Ghany ever read the De Labastide Report on the Gas Station Inquiry, published in 1964. But like so many others who continue to link the destruction of Gene Miles, my friend and godmother of my son – Senator Dr Lester Henry, with Dr Williams and the PNM Government, I am sure if Ghany read the report carefully he would most certainly recognise that Gene’s exposure was a great service to our nation, for which she paid a heavy price, for allowing herself to be used, abused, manipulated and finally deserted by selfish, greedy, ambitious politicians and other activists who in the words of Mr Basdeo Panday had “a morality of their own.”
The report is absolutely clear on who the culprit(s) were: For example on Page 10 we read: “On February 20, 1964, the responsibility for the factory inspectorate was transferred by Cabinet from the Ministry of Labour to the Minister of Petroleum and Mines. From Donald Granado to John O’Halloran.”
Page 17 - Section 5: “As head of the factory inspectorate, which included functions under the petroleum ordinance, and matters hereto, Mr Tam exercised absolute control in the department.”
Page 18 - Section 8: “It must also be noted, the administrative action against Ms Miles (whether or not it may have been justified, which of course, is a matter for the Public Service Commission), was taken at a time when she was actually engaged in exploring, what in her opinion was the malpractice of the Divisional head. Many of which, as already stated, have been substantiated by the evidence.”
Page 21: The questionable bank account of the Chief Inspector is published in detail. There is no mention in the 90-odd page report of the involvement of any government minister or party politician; except the mentioning of the government’s tardiness in not disclosing the malpractice earlier.
In a previous article, I mentioned that Gene Miles was the architect and constructor of her own early demise; aided and abetted by the usual bunch of political vultures, desperate for power. They know who they are, some of them are still around, with the blood of Gene still on their hands. I begged and warned her of the mistake she was making by publicly engaging politicians instead of the PSA. Her cause was just, but unfortunately she allowed herself to be used, devoured, and sacrificed on the political altar, like so many others, who more often than not fail to understand Mr Panday’s mantra - “politics and politicians have a morality of its/their own.” I hope Dr Ghany (if he has not seen the report) will get a copy and see exactly what occurred and who were the culprits. The Factory Inspector was represented at the inquiry by Mr Karl T Hudson-Phillips.