Mon | Oct 21, 2019

Holness demands 'firm action' in wake of public transport chaos

Published:Wednesday | September 25, 2019 | 2:03 AM
Commuters stranded in the rain on North Odeon Avenue in the Corporate Area yesterday due to the withdrawal of Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has directed National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang and the security forces to take "firm action" to curb indiscipline on the nation's roads which, he said, has reached "a level where it is a threat to our economy and public order and safety".

In a statement last night, Holness said he had been briefed by Chang, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson and Transport Minister Robert Montague on the incidents which Monday night left two persons dead. The resulting strike action by Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus drivers left hundreds of Jamaicans stranded on the nation's roads.

Those killed were JUTC employee 34-year-old Mikkel Donaldson, otherwise called ‘Biggs’, of Bull Bay, and taxi driver 37-year-old Akeeno Britton, otherwise called ‘Bubinile’, of a Kingston 10 address. Donaldson was shot dead hours after Britton was fatally stabbed, allegedly in a dispute with a JUTC bus driver.

The killings led to chaos Tuesday morning as JUTC bus drivers failed to turn out to transport commuters and rumours swirled, including on social media, that JUTC employees and facilities were under threat of retaliatory attack.

"I have directed the Minister of National Security and the security forces, to take firm action in this regard and to ensure that the incidents are thoroughly investigated and those responsible feel the full force of the law, including those persons who misused social media to create panic in the wake of [Monday night's] incidents," Holness said.

"I have instructed the Ministry of National Security to investigate all instances of public mischief."

Holness told JUTC drivers that all necessary measures would be in place to ensure their safety and security so they could continue to provide the public with  transportation services going forward.

"I also wish to commend the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch, of the police force, PSTEB, for their swift response and the provision of service with limited resources," he added.

"My thanks also to the many taxi operators who continued to fulfil their responsibility to the public, even amid the disturbances."

Holness also offered his sympathies to the families of the JUTC employee and the taxi driver who were killed.