Animal-welfare activist objects to Independence Day firework display

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

An animal-welfare activist is objecting to fireworks displays for this year’s Independence Day celebrations.

Attorneys for Marissa Ramnath wrote to acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob on Friday, asking him not to grant permission to anyone. She also wants to be told of any application for permission to use fireworks and to be given an opportunity to respond.

Ramnath is represented by attorneys Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh, Stefan Ramkissoon and Rhea Khan.

Taklalsingh, who wrote the letter, said it had come to their client’s attention that the office of the CoP was considering or will soon be asked to consider giving permission for a firework display on Independence Day at the Queen’s Park Savannah. The attorney cited a public notice by one of the country’s largest fireworks retailers, FireOne Fireworks, for an event on August 31. Taklalsingh also referenced Thursday’s announcement for TT’s diamond jubilee celebrations which include the traditional fireworks display at the Savannah.

He said the Summary Offences Act created an offence for the use of fireworks in a city unless the Minister of National Security makes regulations for its use.

He said the regulations under the act did not comply with the statute, and unlawfully delegated to the commissioner the power to grant permission for using fireworks when he receives applications.

“Respectfully, the minister’s statutory duty to prescribe the ‘times’ ‘places’ and ‘conditions’ for the use of fireworks are inalienable and cannot be surrendered to the Commissioner of Police.”

Taklalsingh said they were of the view that the commissioner did not have any power to grant permission without appropriate regulations being made by the minister.

He also said Ramnath was objecting to any permission being given for fireworks displays because of the cruelty to animals. Taklalsingh cited animal-welfare legislation which creates offences of the maltreatment and abuse of animals.

Taklalsingh also said the proximity of the Savannah to the Port of Spain General Hospital may also negatively affect patients and, in the absence of the minister prescribing the times, places and conditions for the use of pyrotechnics, the commissioner should refuse to grant permission for its use.

On Thursday, Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, who is head of the diamond jubilee Independence committee, said the committee was considering different places to display fireworks to ensure there was minimal disturbance for people and animals.

Last month, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) said it was not accepting noise variation requests for the use of fireworks.

The EMA said approval for the discharge of fireworks was not its remit.

In January, former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi drafted proposed legislation for the regulation of the use of fireworks. It proposed, among other things, an amendment to the Summary Offences Act to make the illegal use of fireworks a ticketable offence.

It also proposed no permit for the discharge of fireworks on public holidays or on December 31, during certain hours.

The proposed legislation was submitted to Cabinet in December 2021 and several animal-welfare groups sent their responses, condemning the use of pyrotechnics. Some have also said noise-less fireworks also cause harm to people and animals.

Several government ministers also supported a ban on fireworks, among them Energy Minister and Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West MP Stuart Young after a deadly New Year’s Day tragedy in Belmont which left 25 people homeless.

The Zoological Society also called for a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public. In 2919, one of the zoo’s kangaroos, Joey, died from trauma because of the fireworks display at the savannah.