One of the signs placed on a tree around the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain objecting to the use of fireworks during the Christmas holidays. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
Animal rights activist Nalini Dial said proposed changes in the law to regulate the use of fireworks would not abate the menace of noisy fireworks which she argued should be banned outright.
The Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday said it had noted clarion calls to review fireworks legislation. On Friday, the AG’s Office said the bill was “not the policy of the Government but the comprehensive work of the Law Reform Commission (LRC), an independent and autonomous statutory body.”
It added that the LRC’s recommendations to Cabinet were based on a detailed analysis of previous consultations, the work of a Joint Select Committee, current law and jurisdictional precedents.
In coming up with proposals the Commission considered two scenarios – the imposition of strict prohibitions against the import, sale and use of fireworks and a balance of the safety and entertainment values by regulating the industry through a system of authorisations and classification.
A statement for the Office of the AG said the Commission opted to pursue the latter as enforcing a total ban would essentially put an end to the industry, causing suppliers to suffer significant losses, leading to unemployed also promoting the illegal smuggling of fireworks.
The bill proposed fireworks to be discharged only with a police permit, on public holidays and December 31 at times respectively from 8-9 pm and 11.30 pm-1 am. No discharge is allowed near a hospital, elderly home, zoo, forest reserve, national park or animal farm. Members of the public and stakeholders have until January 26 to submit their views before Cabinet considers the draft legislation.
Dial said, “As president of the group Fireworks Use Sufferers I was hopeful and elated to learn from the AG Faris Al-Rawi that he was going to bring amendments to the fireworks regulations under Section 99 of the Summary Offences Act, only to quickly have our hopes dashed and to be rudely disappointed.”
She said her organisation has protested for nine years against the indiscriminate and illegal use of fireworks.
“After several years of letters, phone calls, interviews and public outcry, by many others in the society, it is apparent that we cannot get any form of proper redress, from either the TTPS (police service), the Government, and the perpetrators of this noise menace. This was the reason that her group was formed and we began protesting every Old Year’s Day at different locations. She blamed this on a lack of staffing and a lack of interest shown by officers upon receiving a fireworks noise complaint.
Dial recalled the police once telling her they would need 100,000 officers to enforce the fireworks law.
“This remark alone confirmed to me how widespread this form of lawlessness is, and that the legislation concerning the use of fireworks, was useless, ineffective, and being totally abused.”
She asked what was the goal of the bill.
She said her group is willing to discuss with the AG its proposals and suggestions, but we maintain that once the sale and use of fireworks cannot be monitored and regulated to the point where the law can be enforced, then the only alternative is an outright ban on fireworks being sold publicly.”
Another group, the Animal Welfare Network (AWN), in a separate statement on Friday, said it receives reports of lost and injured animals every year following Divali to New Year’s.
In a submission to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament which enquired into the adverse effects of fireworks (2017), the group provided the results of a 2017 survey of 20 veterinary clinics in Trinidad, which found that 95 per cent reported overwhelming demand for sedatives in the period leading up to peak periods of fireworks use, 80 per cent reported treating fireworks-related injuries ranging from burns and lacerations, to animals hit by cars, and 80 per cent received reports of lost dogs. The survey covered clinics in north (4), central (5), east (7) and south (4) Trinidad. There were some differences noted, in that clinics in central Trinidad saw more cases during Divali.
The group does not support the proposed Summary Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in the current form “as it does little to prevent the indiscriminate use of fireworks on public holidays and New Year’s Eve and results in great harm to animals.”
Rather, it suggested an outright ban on the sale and use by the public and restrictions on locations where it can be used on national holidays once the necessary permit has been granted.
The group also advised for a transition to “silent” or reduced noise fireworks at special events.