The young woman from “a small place in the back of nowhere” may become the first female Member of Parliament for Tabaquite in the August 10 general election.
Anita Haynes, 33, who worked her way up to become the United National Congress’ (UNC) public relations officer, insists however she was not given a “safe seat” by the party.
Tabaquite, the country’s second largest constituency, stretching from Piparo in the east to Gasparillo in the south and Gran Couva in central, has always been held by the Opposition and is considered one of its strongholds.
“...I put in my nomination paperwork just like everybody else. I went through the screening process, I had no heads up, nothing like that.
“Our nomination requires the signatures of 40 people in the constituency and I took a Saturday and went personally and asked 40 party card-holding members to sign my form. I had no discussions with anybody. I went through the rigours of the process,” Haynes said in an interview with the Express yesterday.
Apart from studying for six years in the US, Haynes said she has lived quietly and almost obscurely in the little country village of Piparo, famed for its once erupted mud volcano.
Responding to some constituents who were not sure if she was from Tabaquite, she said, “Because I am working in Port of Spain and had to leave very early in the morning and come back home late at night many did not realise I was still living here.”
She said she is excited about representing her neighbours and people she knew all her life. “I was told if I win I would be the first female MP for Tabaquite.”
This is something close to her heart as she has been lobbying since her university days for gender equity in political participation.
Focused on current affairs
As for the cries of neglect from constituents, she said she fully understands because her village, Piparo, suffered the same fate.
Haynes began her constituency walkabout in Gasparillo on Wednesday and has planned other walkabouts and cottage meetings for the entire constituency.
“We want to cover the entire constituency. If we don’t finish before August 10, we’ll continue the walkabout and meetings after that,” she said.
So how did Haynes, the eldest of three daughters of a police officer and a real estate worker mom who lives in the US, end up in politics?
Apart from chatting “quite a lot” with her deceased grandfather about politics, no one in her family has been involved in this arena.
It may have blossomed when she was president of the debate team at St Joseph’s Convent in San Fernando where she did her O’ and A’ Levels.
“From very young I was always interested in politics, in particular public policy. I always knew I wanted to get involved. I was president of the debate team at St Joseph’s Convent and was always very focused on current affairs,” she said.
One day at a time
It was at St John’s University in New York, where she was studying on a scholarship, that her calling became clearer to her.
“The same year I finished school at St Joseph’s Convent (2006), I left Trinidad at age 18 to go to St John’s University in New York on a full scholarship,” she said.
There, she studied political science and history.
“Initially, I started to do a degree in finance and was thinking about working on Wall Street. But it didn’t gel well me with me so I switched to political science and thought about getting into the United Nations,” she said.
In 2010 she graduated and had lined up her internship with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), prepared to stay in New York.
Then came the 2010 general election and the emergence of T&T’s first female prime minister.
“I have a lot of friends who studied politics and law in different countries and we were all working for more gender equity in public policy and political participation. So, when we saw what was happening in Trinidad, I said maybe it’s a good time to go back home,” she said. In early 2011, Haynes returned to Trinidad and started looking for jobs in the public sector and landed one in the Office of the Prime Minister under a special advisor for multilateral relations.
“This was based on my resume and specific coursework,” she noted. She is now heading to become a MP. “I’m taking it one day at a time,” she said, adding: “If I win, it will sink in after.”
2015 general election results
Electorate - 28,217
Voter turnout - 19,598 (69.45%)
Suruj Rambachan (UNC) - 12,804 (65.56%)
Kevin Chan (PNM) - 6,726 (34.44%)