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Holness to take bus-fare hike protest islandwide

Published:Tuesday | August 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness addressing the gathering at the protest against bus fare increases in Half-Way Tree yesterday. - Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

Having whipped up support for a protest in the heart of the city against the increase in bus fares yesterday, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) now seems set to take the protest further.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness was resolute in declaring that the protest would be taken to other parishes and town centres.

"We are going to increase our protest. We are not just going to gather in Half-Way Tree, but we're going to gather in every square in this country.

"We are going go in every community in this country. We are going to walk every hill and trod every valley because we must mobilise the people of this country to say to the Government, no more increases. Find more efficient ways of running the Government instead of passing on increases to the already-burdened people of this country," Holness said.

But his spokesman on transport, Dr Horace Chang, seemed less so, saying, "We have made a statement. We have to now look at the Government's response and then we decide where to proceed from here. We have a number of activities that we have to plan going into conference. Depending on the circumstances, we may have to protest again, I don't know but we are mobilised."

The JLP-organised protest at Mandela Park in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, yesterday was intended to send a message to the Government that the hike in bus fares was burdensome and should be rolled back.

Chang said the protest was a success, as Jamaicans were able to voice their concerns on a number of issues affecting the nation, including the recent bus fare increases. He said there needed to be an overhaul in the way the Portia Simpson Miller-led Government addressed critical issues.

Announced last week

Last Wednesday, Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies announced increases in bus fares for the cash-strapped State-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), much to the chagrin of commuters of JUTC buses.

During the protest, which began after 7 a.m. yesterday, it appeared that not even the intermittent showers would deter revelling protesters who jumped and pranced along with speakers JLP leader Andrew Holness and North East Manchester Member of Parliament Audley Shaw as they branded the Government as being wicked.

Shaw, in whipping up protesters, handed down a guilty verdict on the Government's handling of the JUTC and the fare increases; public health issues; hike in food prices; and crime.

The opposition leader, along with the protesters, marched from Mandela Park to the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre, then down to the Ministry of Transport and Works on Maxfield Avenue, prompting security personnel at the ministry to close the gates.

While there, Holness mingled with protesters and heard their concerns.

On their way back to Mandela Park, the protesters shouted, "Roll back!".

Meanwhile, in a press release, the People's National Party said it agreed with the public on the need to have a high-quality, efficient and affordable public transport system for the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region.

The release added that the Government and the JUTC were doing all they could, within the economic constraints, and would continue to do so with significant subsidies and other improvements.