Cabinet members Stuart Young, Clarence Rambharat and Marvin Gonzalez are to be commended for taking a public stand on legislation regarding the sale and use of fireworks—in disagreement with the proposed legislation with which the Attorney General is taking centre-stage.
The AG has again gone out on a limb, unaccompanied by other senior colleagues. Is he going out with a bang?
The proposed legislation is being marketed in the name of the Law Reform Commission (LRC), but that does not hide the draft legislation’s obvious assistance to big money interests.
Based on the LRC’s willingness to lend its name to this Catch 22 Bill—which has within it the inherent contradiction described below—I fear that another supposedly independent statutory body has joined those other top-level institutions which have been showing little backbone.
The significance of the public dissent of the group of three ministers identified above is this: there are types of reforming legislation directed to morally or socially divisive issues when there is no need to corral all the legislators into one vote.
Constituents’ views should be aired in Parliament by their Members of Parliament (MPs), able freely to say how constituents feel. This is such an occasion and MPs should be permitted a conscience vote on the ‘Fireworks Bill’.
One needs to repeat that some characters in this Government seem to love to ride with the elites and aspirants to that level and to seek to protect their pockets and enjoyment.
As an MP representing a constituency where less well-off persons had their homes burned down by ‘recreational’ frolics, Minister Young is particularly obliged to speak up for them and to oppose legislation partial to the interests of fireworks sellers. It is pleasing that he did so.
The Tourism Minister, who may think the notorious Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDECOTT) made Maracas Bay more beautiful than Mother Nature did and that the entertainment industry is only Carnival, referred to ‘issues with recreational fireworks’.
Does this euphemistic phrase render fireworks incapable of burning down a house or terrifying animals, some to death?
Sadly, the language of the LRC in putting out this ‘Fireworks Bill’, entitled the Summary Offences (Amendment) Bill 2021, betrays a departure from reality. The LRC does not seem to be aware that explosive noise is the biggest nuisance—although that is recognised in a position paper from the Environmental Management Commission (the EMA paper), which accompanies what has been circulated for public feedback.
In describing the Bill as Catch 22, I focus on clause 5, which includes in its list of amending provisions a new section to be substituted in the Summary Offences Act containing a prohibition as follows: ‘A person shall not discharge fireworks in such a manner as might create danger and constitute a nuisance to any person or property….’
There is also a prohibition against discharging fireworks ‘onto any house, vehicle or street’.
The use of the word ‘might’ denotes the mere possibility of danger and nuisance. In addition, very few fireworks are contained in the yard of the person setting them off. They inevitably sail out of the yard and onto the street where vehicles may or may not be parked.
As long as fireworks go up with a bang and are capable of causing a fire, those circumstances deny a solution to the nuisance problem and are contradictory of clause 5. It is trying to reconcile the irreconcilable.
An editorial in the Trinidad Express newspaper on Tuesday last focused on noise pollution and the available alternative of fireworks, with decibel levels considerably lower than the war-like noises that we currently endure with each explosion.
Moreover, the EMA paper ‘recommends a ban on traditional noise-producing fireworks and instead allow the importation of noise-reducing fireworks with limitations on discharge’.
Why, therefore, keep the dreadful noise and invite the use of fireworks on all public holidays? I have never heard of fireworks exploding on Corpus Christi. And why promote the use of fireworks on an Easter weekend?
The inevitable result of the proposed legislation will be to extend the fireworks problem.
We are not fooled.