Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, Daryl Vaz, has classified the damage to one of the 50 new Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses as an attack on Government property.
He has warned that legislation is to be sought to allow for the treatment of such acts as being far more serious than simple stone-throwing incidents.
An image posted to X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday, showed the bus with a smashed side glass, prompting the JUTC to launch a probe into how the damage occurred.
The damaged bus was reportedly observed in Portmore, St Catherine.
“It cannot be that we waited for so long for 50 brand new buses, and within the first day of operations, there’s an attack,” declared Vaz at a post-Cabinet press briefing on Wednesday.
“Thankfully no one was injured, but it is unacceptable and it cannot continue to be classified as a stone-throwing incident. It’s not! It’s an attack on Government property, and it will be dealt with in that manner going forward,” he warned.
The minister said he was informed that in other jurisdictions, such as the United States, damage to public property is treated as a felony, and it carries federal charges.
“In Jamaica, we have it as a stone-throwing incident. We cannot spend this amount of money to have… idle or organised, or orchestrated attacks on the Government’s property, because the Government’s property is the taxpayers’ property,” stated Vaz.
“So that is something that I am going to be looking at in relation to the current legislation, and whether or not it requires amended legislation, because the time is now for this to stop,” he added.
At that juncture, Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Robert Morgan, who has responsibility for information, claimed that there are “vested interests” who are not happy with the expansion of the JUTC fleet.
“That’s why I said orchestrated or idle (attacks on the buses),” Vaz responded.
“I am making an appeal again – any improvement in the transport (sector), whether it is bus system or the taxi system, is to the benefit of the citizens of Jamaica, and therefore, it must be embraced by all well-thinking Jamaicans and leave the bad mind behind,” the minister pleaded.
The JUTC has been plagued by many stone-throwing incidents over the years, but despite warnings from the police and the company, the acts have persisted on some of the bus routes.