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Ferdie’s behind-the-scenes account of PNM politics
Former prime minister Dr Eric Williams was “informed on several occasions” about the alleged acts of corruption committed by his cabinet minister John O’Halloran, political activist Ferdie Ferreira has claimed in his new book Political Encounters 1946-2016.
However, Ferreira cannot say whether Williams, this country’s first prime minister, profited financially in any way from O’Halloran’s alleged corruption.
The name O’Halloran has long been associated with corruption in this country.
In 1983 bribery charges were levelled against O’Halloran who eventually fled to Canada where he died.
“Following the infamous saga of Johnny O’Halloran, several people asked me if I believed Williams knew of Johnny’s acts of dishonesty and whether he shared in the spoils,” Ferreira states in Chapter 11 of his book entitled The Doctah I Knew.
“From my knowledge, Williams was informed on several occasions about Johnny’s alleged acts of corruption. Whether the evidence was ever made available to him or not, I am in no position to say,” he stated.
Ferreira said it was “no secret” that Williams had “absolute confidence” in O’Halloran.
On the question of whether Williams shared in O’Halloran’s alleged “booty”, Ferreira stated:
“Neither Williams nor O’Halloran would have shared that secret with anyone, if in fact there was such a secret.”
In Chapter Eight of the book, Ferreira talks of his relationship with this country’s most popular whistle-blower Gene Miles.
Miles is the godmother of Ferreira’s son, current government senator Dr Lester Henry.
Miles was in a relationship with O’Halloran and used to wait to see him outside Parliament, Ferreira stated.
“Every Friday, the voluptuous, burly Gene would appear in Parliament with her always more-than-attractive outfits. That beautiful and attractive woman became the centre of attention of course,” Ferreira stated.
“We could not see Williams’ eyes under his dark shades but all the rest of government and opposition members were captivated by that majestic creature. With her sexy hips, charming smile and a body built by General Motors, Gene was irresistible,” he stated.
Ferreira said during the Parliament’s tea breaks he and Miles used to chat.
“As we became closer, she started telling me about her attraction to and relations with Johnny O’Halloran. Friday after Friday I had to listen to some story about Johnny. Sometimes she would expect Johnny to come out and speak with her,” he said.
O’Halloran, however, once asked Ferreira why Miles was coming to the Parliament “every Friday to embarrass” him.
“This is a good opportunity to put to rest once and for all the misinformation, the now well-entrenched but incorrect perception that the untimely and unfortunate demise of my dear friend Gene Miles was as a consequence of her expose on the gas station licensing racket, her evidence at the Karl de la Bastide Commission of Enquiry, and her persecution by the PNM (People’s National Movement) Government,” Ferreira stated.
“Gene’s conflict at the Ministry of Petroleum and Mines had nothing to do with Minister Johnny O’Halloran or the PNM Government. Her conflict at the ministry was with her boss, factory inspector Kenneth Tam who had sole authority for issuing licences for the construction and operation of petroleum stations,” he said.
Robinson...‘one of the
most skilful political
navigators in the world’
Ferreira said this country’s second prime minister, George Chambers, “was not only one of our better prime ministers but he was an excellent constituency representative, an excellent political leader who, against all odds, rose to the occasion when asked to assume leadership of the party and country in 1981”.
“I can speak with a measure of authority on his leadership and his political capacity which he demonstrated in the general election of 1981. As party organiser for the ONR (Organisation for National Reconstruction) I was among his major opponents and George put us on the defensive from round one,” Ferreira stated in Chapter 12 of the book entitled Who was George Michael Chambers?.
Ferreira said Chambers’ “punch lines”, such as “Not a damn seat for them”, remain “indelibly written” in his memory.
“We in the ONR never recovered from the devastating political punches he delivered with remarkable precision.”
Chambers led the PNM to a victory at the 1981 general election.
Williams died on March 29, 1981.
“Even in death, Williams’ timing was perfect. Even in death he was an asset to the party,” Ferreira stated.
In 1986 the PNM lost the general election to the National Alliance for Reconstruction led by Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson 33-3.
Robinson was this country’s third prime minister.
In Chapter Ten of the book entitled ANR Robinson Aspiring and Achieving Ferreira said the first time he met Robinson was in 1956 at a PNM public meeting at the University of Woodford Square.
Ferreira lauded Robinson as “one of the most skilful political navigators in the world”.
“I am sure when Robinson’s political history is researched and properly documented, he will be placed in the Guinness Book of Records as one of the most skilful political navigators in the world,” Ferreira stated.
“Robinson, whatever we may wish to say of him, served his country well, obtained international recognition and almost sacrificed his life for his country in 1990. He dedicated his entire life to the service of his people. Whatever the circumstances, he served from 1956 to his departure and, in the words of our National Anthem, he aspired and he achieved,” Ferreira said.
Robinson was shot during the 1990 attempted coup by Muslim insurrectionists.
Manning, one of this country’s
‘most successful prime ministers’
Ferreira said this country’s fourth prime minister, Patrick Manning, was one of the “most successful prime ministers”.
Manning left this country much better than he met it when he assumed office in 1991, Ferreira said.
He also praised Manning for getting the PNM back into government after the 1986 defeat.
However, Ferreira said Manning “made some unforgettable and sometimes unforgivable errors”.
Manning “demonstrated poor political judgment” when he called the snap elections in 1995 and 2010, Ferreira stated.
In Chapter 13 of the book entitled Farewell, Patrick Manning, Ferreira said he warned Manning that he was embarking on a “mission of political suicide” by calling both snap elections.
“Patrick ignored all warnings and lost on both occasions,” Ferreira stated.
“Ahead of the 1995 general election, I submitted a report to Patrick cautioning against taking the electorate for granted and pointing to ‘moderate enthusiasm’ among the 14 constituencies from which I had polled 60,500 voters,” he said.
As the PNM’s election officer, Ferreira wrote Manning on June 15, 1995, with his warnings.
In the Acknowledgements section of the book Ferreira refers to this country’s current Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as his “friend”.
Ferreira said over the past ten years, Rowley has not only been his “main source of encouragement and inspiration” but someone who “made the required resources available to him to ensure realisation of his long-awaited publication”.
Ferreira, in Chapter Four entitled Tragedy of Colonialism, said “the biggest tragedy in the People’s National Movement continues to be its almost complete failure to record its history, its achievement, its failures and successes, and the worst of these features is its almost complete failure to recognise both at the party and national level, the contributions of most of its founding members even after its 60th anniversary celebrations.”
In Ferreira’s book, “he is an eyewitness to and participant in the modern political history of T&T.” Stories about people and places are revealed in the 273-pages book which provides “historical corrections and behind-the-scenes observations” about local politics.