Minister hopes for responsibility in ‘fireworks season’


Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal –

MINISTER in the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal hoped people will be responsible in their purchase and use of fireworks ahead of the Summary Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2022 (or “Fireworks Bill”) becoming law.

She said the bill “seeks to strike a balance between responsible use of fireworks and the peaceful enjoyment of property, public safety and the interests of the fireworks industry.”

Addressing a virtual consultation on the bill on Friday, Sagramsingh-Sooklal observed that Trinidad and Tobago was at the start of a period known as “fireworks season.” This period includes festivities such as Independence, Divali and New Year’s Eve.

“People are going to meet in numbers and fireworks are part of our culture.”

With the bill not being law as yet, Sagramsingh-Sooklal said, “It is business as usual, unfortunately, as it relates to the purchase and use of fireworks.”

But she said Government hoped citizens were responsible and “know even in the absence of law and regulations, people have to take personal responsibility.”

Consultations on the bill acknowledged this, along with the harm that the unregulated use of fireworks can do to animals, people and property.

Sagramsingh-Sooklal said a survey by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) said 60 per cent of animals affected by fireworks are dogs while 17 per cent are cats. The effects of fireworks on animals includes disorientation, trauma and death.

A second EMA survey found 79 per cent of people said they were adversely affected by the use of fireworks.

Law Reform Commission member Samraj Harripaul, SC, estimated the commission could take two-three months to produce an amended bill, based on the feedback from the consultations, its own recommendations and final directions from Attorney General Reginal Armour, SC, on the bill.

Harripaul said after that, it was up to the Government as to when the bill is laid in Parliament. The 2022/23 budget will be the main priority for Parliament when it returns from its mid-year recess in September.

Sagramsingh-Sooklal could not give an exact time when the bill would be laid in Parliament.

“I would want to believe in the new year, it can be laid.” She said the bill is part of Government’s legislative agenda. It requires a simple majority for passage.

Sagramsingh-Sooklal identified two approaches Government considered with respect to dealing with fireworks.

The first was strict prohibitions against the importation, purchase and use of fireworks.

“This approach essentially put an end to the industry.” Sagramsingh-Sooklal cautioned this could encourage the illegal importation of fireworks which would be more difficult to regulate.

She said this is why the bill seeks a balance between the safety and entertainment values of fireworks.

Some of those measures include fireworks only being sold to people over 18, a permit being required for the use of fireworks and specific times being allocated for their use.

While noiseless fireworks have been advanced by some people as a solution, Harripaul said these are more expensive than regular fireworks, and fireworks suppliers may find it uneconomical to sell them,

Sagramsingh-Sooklal admitted to liking lantern fireworks. But she acknowledged the comments about their destructive capability from Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West MP Stuart Young after 25 people in Belmont were left homeless after a fire, said to be caused by a Chinese lantern, destroyed their homes.

At that time, Young expressed a personal view that fireworks should not be sold to members of the public.

Sagramsingh-Sooklal said the bill does not deal with the issue of accreditation as other pieces of legislation do. She reiterated that its focus is on the sale and regulation of fireworks.

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