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'Enough is enough!'

JLP leads hundreds in JUTC fare increase protest

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 26, 2014    

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AS promised, members of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) yesterday led a demonstration against an increase in bus fares, pulling hundreds of Jamaicans who flooded Half-Way-Tree to voice their own disapproval with the hike.

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness, who described the demonstration as a resounding success, has warned Government to expect more of such actions if it continues to ignore the calls of the people.

"We are not just going to gather in Half-Way-Tree, but we are going to gather in every square in this country; we're going walk every hill and trod every valley," said Holness.

On Sunday, the government-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) implemented an increase that saw fares moving from $100 to $120 for adults; $20 to $40 for senior citizens; and $20 to $30 for students and the disabled. The fare for senior citizens was originally proposed at $60, but was reduced in the wake of widespread criticisms.

Yesterday, police reported that, from as early as 6:30 am, protesters — some dressed in green and a few in orange — gathered in the lay-by at Mandela Park. Many had placards in hand as they lashed out at the decision they claimed would put a strain on their pockets, especially at a time when they are already struggling to make ends meet.

The group of chanting protesters later marched to the Transport Ministry on Maxfield Avenue, demanding that the increase be rolled back.

"Roll back the fares! Roll back the fares!" they chanted as they made their way through the busy streets, braving early signs of rain that threatened to pour over the commercial hub.

Even members of the senior citizen community were out in their numbers.

"We can't take it no more. Government need to do something for us the citizens," said Hula Linton.

The 65-year-old woman from Kingston said, despite challenges, she made it her duty to participate in the protest.

"I am here to send a message that enough is enough," she stressed.

Paulette Dickson, 59, shared a similar story.

"Right now, something needs to be done to address the issue with fares as this is too much strain on Jamaicans," she said.

By the time the crowd arrived at the transport ministry, its numbers had grown so much that it triggered a brief traffic jam and caused ministry staff to lock the gates.

The police soon intervened, informing the media that the group was not granted permission to march.

Back at Mandela Park, where the throng returned, Holness lashed out at the Government describing it as uncaring.

"The time has come for all of us to unite. Enough is enough," said the JLP leader.

He went further to criticise the ruling People's National Party, claiming that Government was concentrating only on passing the International Monetary Fund tests, but was not taking the people's suffering into consideration.

Desmond McKenzie, Opposition spokesman on local government who said Jamaicans were frustrated with the current situation, supported him.

"The pressure is on; bus fare today, food prices tomorrow. We can't take it anymore," said McKenzie.

The JLP's general secretary and spokesman on transport Horace Chang; spokesman on national security, Derrick Smith; spokesman on finance and planning Audley Shaw; and president of Generation 2000 Floyd Green were also present at the protest.

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