Fireworks from Regrello over San Fernando celebrations

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Fireworks for Independence Day on San Fernando Hill. File photo/Marvin Hamilton

SAN FERNANDO mayor Junia Regrello has been sharply criticised by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Citizens Against Noise Pollution in TT (CANPTT) for his “disturbing” responses to complaints posted on his Facebook page after the fireworks display at San Fernando Hill on Independence Day.

The NGO told Newsday it viewed the comments as not only racist and deeply offensive but rudely dismissive of people and animals affected by the event.

In his initial post, Regrello announced plans for the display, noting that 40 per cent of the fireworks were to be noiseless; as he noted, these were not “completely silent but that of a lesser decibel level of 70.”

He said, “This hybrid approach is in an effort to accept all views and opinions from the public during the ongoing consultation process for the use of fireworks. It is also intended to promote factual discussions based on experience in use and effect.”

Shortly after the fireworks display, however, a number of comments were posted complaining about the “noiseless” fireworks.

One person commented, “What part of those fireworks were 40 per cent silent?? Did you not hear the same fireworks as everyone else?”

Another wrote that the fireworks were “louder than ever,” adding that “children and dogs were bawling in San Fernando,” and that “people as far as Princes Town said that they could hear the fireworks from San Fernando for the first time.”

Regrello responded that the claims were unsubstantiated, exaggerated and undeserving of any response.

“You have been operating like a humming bird in suspension (sic) for the past 48 hours. Your rational (sic) so far is beyond reason.

“If you, and the recalcitrant minority against the fireworks, have issues with the form for celebration for the Diamond Jubilee, please present your evidence and data such as how many died, how many got away etc.”

The term “recalcitrant minority” is considered by many to have racist and divisive undertones, given its historical political context. (Dr Eric Williams used it in 1958 to describe those whose opposition led to the PNM setback in the West Indies federal elections. It was and still is generally taken to refer to TT citizens of Indian descent.)

Regrello continued, “You should have been around the inner city last evening to see families out in droves taking up vantage points, children excited by the atmosphere, South Park was filled, Circular Rd and the By Pass (sic) was impassable.

“The information we received this morning indicated that no animals were harmed or strayed from their safe keeping.”

In spite of Regrello’s comments, another commenter responded that her views were not “exaggerated.”

CANPTT’s public relations officer Tamara Chatar told Newsday she was surprised that Regrello’s “outwardly racist comments” had not been reported by the media until now.

“I am in total shock at how he is insulting people that have a problem (with fireworks) like if it is not a real issue.

“It’s so disturbing. It cannot be where a public figure like this can make a comment. The fact that no media is talking about it, is this the norm? Is this what Trinidad and Tobago is settling for on our 60th (Independence Day anniversary)?

She said celebrations cannot be accompanied by destruction.

“And the racism, it’s horrible.”

Chatar noted the NGO’s close association with the animal welfare group Animals 360, with the belief that there is strength in numbers, particularly in the fight against the unlawful use of fireworks.

“We do believe that fireworks contribute to noise pollution and we hope with the so-called focus on the AG’s office, we can garner support for our issues (and establish) why noise pollution laws and regulations (are not being enforced).

“We have all these laws and rules, but there’s no enforcement.”

The heated discussion, comprising nearly 200 comments and responses, remained on Regrello’s Facebook page at the time of writing. Screenshot images of the discussion later circulated on the social media platform.