Animal activists plan legal action to speed up fireworks law reform

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this January file photo, anti-fireworks lobby groups hanged signs on trees at the Queen’s Park Savannah in protest of the use of fireworks. Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Animal activist group the Animals 360 Foundation plans legal action against the State with the aim of restricting the use of fireworks.

The group has sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Office of the Attorney General on its failure to act on promises made to mobilise fireworks legislation.

A statement on Thursday from the foundation said it was acting on behalf of the Fireworks Action Coalition of NGOs and other private-sector organisations and supporters.

In a phone interview with Newsday on Thursday, Animals 360 founder Roger Marshall said the legislation is not just for the protection of animals.

“It’s about humans: the elderly, children, people just enjoying the peaceful occupation of their homes.

“We can’t have fireworks exploding in residential areas. It’s inhumane.”

He said the organisation has proffered recommendations to the government in the past.

He said there must be approved areas for firework displays that take into consideration the surroundings. “It must be at least a mile away from institutions (such as) farms, hospital, and resident areas.”

He said there must also be approved times for using fireworks – only during national celebrations, primarily independence and New Year’s Eve. He said, above all, fireworks should be taken out of the hands of the general public.

“It’s just too dangerous.”

The foundation’s release said the initial phase of the consultative process in January was met with enthusiastic response from the public.

But, it pointed out, “The government has failed to deliver on its promise to facilitate dialogue with the general public on legislation for responsible use of fireworks.”

It said the purpose of the legal letter is to ensure the State fulfils its promise and acts responsibly to protect the public.

The statement said the office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Legal Affairs had acknowledged unlawful handling of fireworks and that former AG Faris Al-Rawi committed during the Senate debate on May 19, 2020 to deal with it.

“The fifth report of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Social Services and Public Administration submitted in June, 2018 recommendations were made to both Houses of Parliament for the responsible management of fireworks,” said the statement.

It also said the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) submitted recommendations in September 2020 after public consultations and in January, Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales and Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young both declared themselves in favour of the prohibition of the public’s use of fireworks, after Al-Rawi called on the public to make recommendations on the legislation.