Letter to the Editor: Is the Gov’t waiting for a fireworks fatality before it acts?

EPL Infrafred Sauna

“Admittedly, fireworks are visually spectacular and, in countries which value every citizen’s rights, families can view amazing firework displays for a limited period of time in a safe venue.

“But the indiscriminate use of fireworks is hurting people and it seems as if our government—both present and past—is waiting for someone to be killed before passing legislation and enforcing it.”

The following Letter to the Editor, which calls for a ban on the sale of fireworks to the general public, was submitted to Wired868 by Josephine Aché:

When are we the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago ever going to learn or, for that matter, evolve as a nation?

­What happened to the old days when we all lived as a community, and were each others keepers? What has happened to our holidays, particularly, our religious ones, being celebrated and given the true reverence they deserve?

Photos: Patrons enjoy the festivities during Trinidad and Tobago's 2016 Independence Day Parade. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photos: Patrons enjoy the festivities during Trinidad and Tobago’s 2016 Independence Day Parade.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

How are we ensuring that future generations understand the difference between sacred time and fun and games. Must we always fuse everything?

All celebrations in this country, religious or not involve noise. Lots of it! From music to fireworks, it’s  a non-stop barrage of  unnecessary NOISE: scratch bombs, rocket launchers, screamers, firecrackers, roman candles whistle, scream and ricochet over our roofs, in our gardens, under our cars for hours, day after day and sometimes weeks before an event.

Divali and New Year’s Eve are probably the worst nights to be a child, an elderly person, a sick or dying citizen or a four-legged pet in sweet T&T. But there are other times as well when not even ear plugs do the job.

Admittedly, fireworks are visually spectacular and, in countries which value every citizen’s rights, families can view amazing firework displays for a limited period of time in a safe venue. But the indiscriminate use of fireworks is hurting people and it seems as if our government—both present and past—is waiting for someone to be killed before passing legislation and enforcing it.

Much like the case of the Divali Nagar’s disastrous parking arrangements which led to patrons being allowed to park on the highway and attempt to cross two to four lanes of speeding vehicles to access the Nagar.

Sadly, we all remember the headlines as the inevitable happened. Those deaths impelled the PP Government  to build a walkover.

Photo: A youngster prepares to light fireworks. (Courtesy Flickr)
Photo: A youngster prepares to light fireworks.
(Courtesy Flickr)

Many concerned citizens are concerned about the lack of government commitment to pro-active policies regarding this urgent situation. I began a Fireworks Petition one year ago as well as a Facebook Group Page dedicated to pressuring those in power to help the voiceless.

Here are the facts:

•Doctor Sherene Kalloo (Specialist Gynaecologist/Obstetrician) in an article entitled “These bombs of sick fun can kill” published in the Trinidad Express also made a very strong appeal for our laws to be revisited and toughened. Police officers need to take complaints seriously.

•Divali 2016: “Sally-Ann Cuffie risked her life to save her six-month-old granddaughter Christa, she may never be able to cradle the baby again. Cuffy, 48, put her life on the line when she snatched up a scratch bomb which was thrown into her son’s car while the family were out for a drive on Divali night in Las Lomas. The bomb landed near the baby but before Cuffie could dispose of it, it exploded in her hand, severing both thumbs and severely damaging her other fingers. What makes this injury especially threatening for Cuffie is that she suffers from diabetes which inhibits injuries from healing properly… If her hands are not healing or become infected, both of them may have to be amputated.”

Facebook users were appalled to witness the cruel destruction of animals using firecrackers this year—a new low in a country increasingly numb to violence.

Photo: A cartoon on the dangers of fireworks.
Photo: A cartoon on the dangers of fireworks.

•Divali 2015: Dr Anand Chattergoon (ex-Medical Director of the San Fernando General Hospital) during an interview with the Newsday called for action against the use of fireworks as he revealed that 11 persons including a two-year-old child and a 54-year-old man visited the hospital during Divali celebrations with grievous injuries caused by fireworks. In the case of the 54-year-old man, three of the fingers on his right hand were blown off when a firework he was holding, exploded”. He went on to say that “The Ministry of  Health and other authorities have to do something about this situation because it is in the public’s interest to be educated about dangers posed by firecrackers and fireworks.”

•Divali 2015: 2 year old “Joshua Rufus also sustained serious injuries to his right hand and underwent emergency surgery to his hand as several of his fingers were damaged… It is believed the toddler was holding a firecracker when it came into contact with a lighted deya and ignited.”

• December 2015: “Three month old baby Hassan who was burnt in his mother’s arms on Old Year’s evening last year, after someone lit a rocket firecracker from across City Gate, South Quay, Port-of- Spain, that landed on the child’s blanket, which caught afire and burnt his left leg. The mother, Hajar Hassan, 31, is calling on the authorities to reign in the use of firecrackers in public places because of the danger it poses to life and limb of innocent passers-by.”

•2015: Two teachers from the Chaguanas North Secondary were injured by exploding scratch bombs brought into the classrooms by some pupils bent on causing chaos.  Both suffered injuries including burns to the feet and lips.

The bottom line is parents need to protect their children better. Who gives a two year old a firework to play with? Would these parents allow that same child to light a stove?

Photo: A child lights a firecracker.
Photo: A child lights a firecracker.

And they need to take responsibility for fireworks which they themselves purchase—at a great cost in a recession.

Our elected officials need to man up and deal with this situation urgently and our beleaguered Police Commissioner needs to sensitise his officers to this new threat to life. With enforced laws and police intervention, we can try to be better than a banana republic but actually save lives by taking a pro-active stance rather than just giving us lip service after the inevitable has occurred.

Minister Stuart Young hinted last year at a possible ban of the sale of illegal fireworks which flood our shores including the lethal scratch bombs allegedly coming in from Venezuela. Like a faulty firecracker, that statement never ignited into action.

Added to human misery, is the untold suffering and death of our animals. Pet lovers decry the disgusting lack of compassion for animals who become so stressed that many of them run away. Stray dogs are worst off—they have no one to come looking for them—many of them will run scared straight onto incoming traffic and be killed.

Minister Maxie Cuffie is now on record as saying, that he will do all in his power to get the bombs off the street and that he would speak with our Honourable Attorney General with regards to getting legislation in place to ban the use of scratch bombs after visiting his constituent Sally-Ann Cuffie—no relation—in hospital.

Although many may agree that the scratch bomb is one of the more dangerous fireworks products, I will argue that all fireworks products in the wrong hands are as lethal.

Photo: A display of fireworks for sale.
Photo: A display of fireworks for sale.

In that regard we do not just need a ban on scratch bombs but a ban on all fireworks from the general public’s hands.

Gangsters just love fireworks. What better time to show off ammunition to each other and discharge their lethal weapons into the air? The ear splitting noise makes a perfect sound cover for gun shots. Unfortunately, stray bullets do not have eyes—they strike people dead. This is exactly what happened in Beetham Gardens  as people were celebrating and ringing in the New Year.

A six year old boy and a grandmother were killed giving us our first two murders for the beginning of 2016. Their crime? Watching fireworks.

Responsible caring Trinis are fed up of talking. This country needs definitive, compassionate action on this matter and we need it now. Like the US with their simplistic gun laws, any fool can purchase potentially lethal firecrackers and fireworks—but without meaningful advertising campaigns to educate our population backed by stiff penalties for breaking the law.

How many more fingers, faces, lives must be lost before urgent legislation is put in place to stop the law breakers permanently?!

It’s not fun to be an amputee or another murder statistic in Trinidad. Listen, legislate, do your part. Wake up Trinidad and Tobago!

Photo: A resident enjoys a firework display.
Photo: A resident enjoys a firework display.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to sign Josephine Aché’s Facebook petition. Or HERE to join her Facebook support group page.

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  1. The politicians are waiting for all the bids to come in to see where they can benefit the most before taking any action.
    Money talks, poor people walk.

  2. Why the Government dont banned this fireworks, i am scared of it, is fire scrackers, it resembles war everytime i witness it i feel like the country under are attack by enemy forces bombs dropping, i know the world love it, i only putting up with it, i do tremble, my Grandson dont like it long ago it was not so only on independence day fire officers was the ones who use to handle that,they know how to handle it, every tom, dick,mary, harry with these explosives, i see little children and all,i feel tormented,this company FIRE ONE are the people responsible indian people of this country they send text too my cel phone to come into their place at macoya wish this thing could be band the country lawless, the opposition with kamala still running this country i aint see any blackman get any contracts all the other races doing well AFRICAN MAN gets notthing, vote pnm.

  3. Very good Josie!! Keep up the pressure!

  4. There are far more capable ppl to ask- but I think it’s not that we rushed but the arrangements that were intended to be temporary were just left there and we were busy enjoying oil booms. Plus we are a dishonest ppl I think. Ress yuh head na is Sunday.

  5. I don’t get the impression that all the inhabitants of this island were in the same book when this country was being conceived, let alone the same page.
    Proof of that is reflected in the hodge podge that are our marriage laws.

  6. wonderful article…but celebration is coming soon again…and there will be as usual nothing done..they will bla bla and even agree with you…and still do nothing…too much money involved..and support…these should really only be used in a controlled scenario…so we all hope that this will happen…

  7. Can a historian tell me if we formed this country with the same kinda rush job we see when either party pushing through legislation at the 23rd hour? Justin Phelps, you will do. Lol

  8. When we formed this country we obviously did so all wrong. It was unforgivably poorly conceived!

  9. Margaret Thatcher: “And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.”

  10. The answer lies in the amt of money owners of the fireworks company spend on political parties . You have so many people fedup of this noise and only promises of action by the politicians . Pick sense from nonsense !

  11. Many don’t give one ass about those in their own yard.
    And I have come to the realization that we are definitely not “a people”, we’re refugees from a vanished empire.

  12. Survival of the fittest is the motto. Too many Trinis don’t care about anybody outside of their own yard.

  13. Also a government is ALWAYS a reflection of the governed eh. Trinidadians are overwhelmingly pro-deregulation in all things as well as pro-conspicuous consumption even in the face of it’s consequences.
    Our elderly suffer and our animals become frantic for refuge, but blowing up shit anywhere we feel like as,a means of celebration is fun so leh dem suck salt!

  14. Governance in Trinidad is least of all proactive. It ain’t just fireworks, we’ll need a cleanup in aisle #2 before we decide to set the jars on the shelfs two inches further back from the edge!

  15. if fireworks are illegal to use (without a permit), why are the suppliers selling to customers? just like alcohol, isn’t id, well in this case proof of permit, required? and those scratchbombs are illegal outright, why are they being sold? why are suppliers not held accountable for the products reaching the wrong hands? yes, i know these are useless questions. and yes, they are waiting for a fatality because we are a reactive society, not proactive.

    • …..should the question not correctly be Alexx, why are suppliers being allowed to import these illegal products into the country to be retailed to the general public? Yes, I too agree with your sentiments expressed in your comment. Like I mentioned in my article while fireworks maybe visually spectacular, I have no quarrels whatsoever with legal displays being done on like Independence night etc…. where the necessary trained people are spare heading these displays for a period of time under safe conditions. I have a MASSIVE problem with these products being in public domain and being able to be set off at any given day of the week, night, time etc…more and more people being maimed yearly, pets being lost and killed, the ill, the babies, the elderly being affected so negatively……now that I have a serious bone of contention with.

  16. Talk about a voice crying in the wilderness, singing in the rain. Lady, we sympathise. But who makes money from the sale of fireworks, you and I, ordinary citizens both? No, sirree! The people who make the big money are the same ones who finance the political parties. You really expect them to bite the hands that feed them.

    Stuart Young and Maxie Cuffie can talk out of turn but that’s merely meant to be a sop for you and me and the scores of others who feel the same way. In the unlikely event that the issue ever comes before the Parliament, do you expect a conscience vote?

    Cuffie and Young are both going to vote with the government because they know where their bread is buttered. And neither is about to let his political career go up in fireworks smoke!

    • Good Evening Mr. Best,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my article and post a comment. I always look forward to hearing from my readers. As much as I hear what you are saying and do not disagree with you at all, I think this nonsense has gone far enough and must be curbed despite our politricking. It is affecting way too many areas of daily life for everyone. The numbers now speaking out about this both here at home as well as internationally are quickly growing more and more everyday. I am determined to be the one to spare head this fight and lead the change in T&T despite the obstacles and walls I may meet doing so. I believe strongly that every situation has a time limit and this time limit has just run out! I am hoping that I will continue getting the support that I need to do this as it is the right thing to do.

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