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'I'll serve as long as the Lord permits'

Published:Saturday | March 31, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir: I HAVE noted with great interest your timely editorial in Friday's (March 30) paper. It is also interesting to note the disclaimer which routinely appears beneath the daily editorial, essentially confirming that the editorial writer's views and that of The Gleaner are the same.

However, it is indeed a sad day in this country, in its 50th year of Independence, when the region's oldest print media sets out to launch such a vicious, unwarranted and unsubstantiated attack on a citizen of Jamaica.

Let me first remind you that my tenure in politics can only be decided by the people who voted for me, not The Gleaner's editorial writer or its owners, whose views, as admitted by the disclaimer, are one and the same.

As long as the good Lord con-tinues to keep me healthy and strong, and the people wish me to serve, I will do so, no matter what the Old Lady of North Street thinks. History shows that The Gleaner gave similar advice to Bustamante when he had started his journey!

Under the circumstances, The Gleaner's editorial headline, 'Mr Henry, pack your bags', unfortunately confirms the long-held belief that media and their owners seek to influence the political fortunes of this country.

In respect of the issues raised regarding the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP), The Gleaner has seemingly joined others in skewing the truth. One such area is The Gleaner's continued assertion that money was spent on "refurbishing".

I refer you to the line item in the loan agreement listed as 'institutional strengthening', which is common to many contracts, and that the offices repaired were in long need of such repairs. The Ministry of Finance was similarly 'refurbished'.

For my part, I await all audits and reports on JDIP.

Meanwhile, what of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP)? Has China Harbour been replaced as contractor, also the procurement of services?

Isn't The Gleaner interested in asking these questions of the present Government?

In respect of the Rural-Urban Transport plan, I am not sure what research The Gleaner has under-taken. However, this plan was not conceived in isolation of the needs of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) and Montego Bay Metro, but against the total needs of the island's public transport system, growth of rural townships and high cost of travel for rural-urban school children.

money goes to the people

May I remind The Gleaner that the concession subsidy paid to JUTC is from the pocket of all taxpayers in Jamaica, and it is this tax that is used to give concessionary fares to residents of Kingston and St Andrew and parts of St Catherine.

This is done to allow the schoolchildren and some residents of Kingston and St Andrew and parts of St Catherine to only pay a fare of $40 to and from school. However, rural children have to travel at an average of some $500 dollars daily, this at great risk, as evidenced by the children who have lost their lives in serious road accidents in Manchester and Trelawny, not to mention their exposure to lewd music and social decadence.

The planned introduction of a rural bus service, similar to the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region service, and tied to the railway, was being developed by the policy department of the Ministry of Transport and Works to level the cost of travel across the country. The model of MoBay Metro and JUTC would have been used as a guide.

Indeed, this model would have also included the JUTC to expand its management role across the island in keeping fare rates fair for all, thus keeping with my own historic position that development of Jamaica must come from the centre, not from opposite ends of the country.

May I also advise The Gleaner that the buses referred to were not only for the rural service, but for JUTC, whose initial needs identified by the Metropolitan Management Transport Holdings Limited was some 735 buses as, despite the 300 bought since 2007, the needs of the Corporate Area are still not being serviced.

In closing, and in the interest of fair play, I hope The Gleaner will seek a copy of the plan which encompassed far more than the stated narrow view of issues.

Mike Henry

Member of Parliament, Central Clarendon