Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Ann-Marie Vaz: Hold me accountable - Vowed to daughter to pull out if mudslinging gets too nasty

Published:Sunday | March 24, 2019 | 12:26 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter
Ian Allen/Photographer Ann-Marie Vaz, JLP candidate for East Portland, answers questions during an interview with The Sunday Gleaner last week.

The thought of following her husband into the rough and tumble world of representational politics was completely alien to Ann-Marie Vaz.

By her own admission, she was comfortable caring for her children, building a sound family structure, and being the loving and supportive wife to her husband, Daryl, the political veteran and two-term parliamentarian.

“You talk about something coming out of left field, I don’t even know if is left or right, or up or down, or underground … that I’m sitting here in politics is something completely alien to anything that I’ve ever set out for in my life,” she confessed.

But the little country girl, as she describes herself, recounted in a no-holds-barred interview with The Sunday Gleaner how she began to warm to the idea of entering representational politics.

It all started, she said, in June 2016 as she traversed the hilly and picturesque coastal terrain of Portland campaigning for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) during the local government elections without her husband.

“I worked as every position … runner, indoor agent, and outdoor agent. Every position,” she recalled, making reference to the tasks usually performed by persons at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder during elections for the two main political parties. “The people could not believe,” she said

Vaz said soon after, the calls started coming for her to take up the mantle of political representative.

“When I looked at the continuous disintegration of the Portland that I know, when I saw that no one was stepping forward, when I thought about what I was doing and how becoming the member of parliament could bring me to do that much more … I thought about it and things just started to happen,” she said.

Preserving family structure

But before she made the leap into what has morphed into a high-stakes, high-profile political showdown, “the little girl from the country who grew up without a father” wanted to make sure that her action would not destroy the family structure she has cultivated and cherished and who, according to her, has “paid the price for our [her and Daryl’s] decisions”.

She was particularly concerned for her then 15-year-old daughter and recounted a conversation they had in Montreal, Canada, after The Gleaner first reported last February that she was contemplating entering representation politics.

“I was crying. I remember I was leaving to go to Miami [and] my daughter was going back to Toronto. So in the back of the taxi going to the airport … I remember saying to her, ‘Tuzzy, this is going to get bad, this is going to get rough. They are going to say horrible things about your mother. But if it gets too rough for you’, and she started to cry, ‘I will back out of it’,” Vaz said, fighting back tears.

“For me, that was one of the most painful things,” she continued, noting that her older children have become “immune to it”.

After two years of “back and forth”, Vaz said she answered the call to represent the people of Portland last March.

She disclosed that she had “an incredible relationship” with Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, the two-term legislator whose death last month triggered her much-anticipated showdown with the People’s National Party’s Damion Crawford for the right to become member of parliament for East Portland.

“Doc come to my house and looked after my children and look after me. We had a good relationship. We never had a problem in East Portland,” she insisted.

Despite that, Vaz said what she found after she agreed to represent the constituency on a JLP ticket was “a house on fire” – a reference to the bad roads and antiquated infrastructure.

She believes the people of East Portland have not held their political representatives accountable, and said she had been walking the constituency non-stop to hear the urgent priorities of residents before crafting a manifesto that will outline her plans and programmes.

“Thirty years of sufferation is going to take leadership that is present on all fronts. I want the people to hold me accountable,” Vaz insisted.