The house of United National Congress (UNC) Enterprise South/Longdenville North councillor Whitney Stevenson-Hamlet, who unseated People’s National Movement (PNM) candidate Ronald Heera in Monday’s local government election, was burnt down just hours before her victory.
Stevenson-Hamlet defeated Heera, who has been the PNM councillor in the area for 21 years, by three votes.
In the 2016 local government election, she ran against him and lost by 300 votes.
Stevenson-Hamlet was the councillor who held hands with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar as they walked onstage at the Couva South constituency office on Monday evening after the election results were announced.
Mere hours before she was announced as the victorious candidate, the mother of four young children got a phone call from her daughter around 4 p.m. that her Housing Development Corporation (HDC) townhouse in Oasis Gardens, Egypt Village, Endeavour, was on fire.
She said her children moved quickly and ran out the house and called the police and the Fire Service, which arrived in time to prevent the fire from spreading to adjoining townhouses in Rhone Crescent.
The upstairs portion of the house was destroyed and all the family’s possessions, estimated to be valued at more than $250,000, were burnt.
Stevenson-Hamlet, a Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation worker, her husband and her children have since been staying in the UNC’s campaign office in Longdenville.
She said the HDC visited the house and she is awaiting word from them on the matter.
Stevenson-Hamlet, who spoke with the Express yesterday, declined to comment on whether sabotage was involved.
“I am unable to say whether it was sabotage, but no weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
She added: “I can’t tell you how it started because it is still being investigated.
“I cried and bawled, but as much as I’m devastated and depressed, I’m standing strong and firm by God’s grace.
“I thank God me and my kids are safe and no damage was done to anyone. I am grateful adjoining houses were not affected.”
Stevenson-Hamlet said she is getting a lot of support, moral and otherwise, from her UNC family.
She said a few hours after the fire, around 8.30 p.m., she heard she had defeated Heera in Enterprise South/Longdenville North.
“I couldn’t enjoy it the way I wanted to, but it did lift my spirits to know that after something tragic happened a few hours before, I did conquer and bring home a seat that was so difficult and owned by the PNM for 21 years.
“This time I told Heera I am coming for him and I did.
“It was overwhelming to know I actually did it. The people had faith in me; God gave me the opportunity to serve them. Nothing is impossible with God.”
Stevenson-Hamlet said with a lot of help from the UNC, she worked hard, visiting every family in the community of around 8,000 people.
“I let them know I was their candidate and left a flier with my contact information, photo and bio. If I missed someone, I came back. I walked the whole area about three times.”
She joins the Chaguanas Borough Corporation as a new councillor and said she has a lot of work to do in her community.