Peter O'Connor writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
We give thanks for smart phones, which allow communities to monitor their neighbourhoods via their devices to advise of strangers, threats, power failures, dry taps and of course to fret about the illegal blasting of fireworks. Mind you, we do not need to share the fireworks information, we are all acutely and painfully aware of this continuing abuse because there is nothing subtle about explosions in residential neighbourhoods.
While our WhatsApp discussions are informative regarding strangers, lack of water (before whatsapp you only knew that there was no water when your tanks ran dry!), or other matters of community concern, discussions about the fireworks nuisance and abuse reflect shared anger and frustration. The ongoing discharge of explosives in residential neighbourhoods is, of course, against the law. But for some reason which no one can explain, the police allow this to continue. Indeed I am yet to see anyone in the media ask the Commissioner of Police why the police permit people to set off dangerous explosives all night long, night after night. It is not difficult to track the locations of these ongoing abuses of the peace.
And the menace has grown over the years, so that people can purchase their explosives from unregistered tents set up on vacant roadside lots, at major intersections, anywhere! There are more rules governing the sale of doubles or beer than there are regarding dangerous explosives. Does anyone know, for instance (I do not visit these “outlets”) whether there are any safety devices, like fire extinguishers, in any of these temporary tents selling explosives along our roadsides? And if not, why not?
You need a license to sell beer from a roadside stall. You need a health badge to sell doubles or pies from a roadside stall. But you can sell explosives without any regulation or restriction. And people will purchase. One man, speaking to a TV reporter on last Tuesday’s news, was boasting that he had spent over $5,000 on his fireworks, for that day! I do not know what $5,000 in fireworks look like. And what dangers might be attendant in transporting that amount around on a hot day? Does anyone know? Does anyone care?
The explosives which make up fireworks are highly volatile and dangerous. Fireworks factories and fireworks warehouses do explode and burn, often taking human lives with them. When we suffer the inevitable accident that may do serious harm to people, will some arm of Government awaken from their slumber of tolerance towards this dangerous nuisance. The accidents that have occurred have been largely ignored, mostly because injury has been limited to one victim only, and of course, we do not want to spoil the fun or anyone’s profits by admitting that injuries have happened.
When a serious incident occurs, with multiple injuries, or even loss of life, what will be the response of the authorities whose duty it is to prevent these explosives being sold and set off everywhere? And why do we have to wait until a disaster occurs to have peace, quiet and safety in residential neighbourhoods?
And all this is clearly now all big business. While people cannot get foreign exchange to import pharmaceuticals or basic living items, suppliers of explosives to the public seem to easily meet the growing demand which they encourage and serve. Our allegedly scarce foreign exchange is being used to import explosives for “fun” rather than medicine and food.
But while the exploding crackers and bombs are terrorising the elderly, little babies and animals residents of Cascade are online complaining that there is no water in their homes. And for days now! But there is water running down the hills and through our roads, flowing copiously and steadily out of leaking and broken water mains. All through our valley, WASA has water constantly flowing out of their broken pipes. This will continue forever. Our member of Parliament is a Minister of Everything in the Office of the Prime Minister, and we must understand that his position there is more important than serving his constituency. Anyway, he does not know what we suffer because he does not even live in the constituency he is supposed to represent.
WASA needs help, and everyone (including WASA but excluding successive governments for several years) knows this. WASA does not need to source more water. They need to install new water mains. They currently waste, through broken mains, more than half of the water they produce. In 1986 the then government had negotiated a loan with the Inter American Development Bank to replace water mains. But we had an election, and a new government, and the project was suspended and never revived!
Maybe the cacophony of explosions tonight will drown (bad pun!) the complaints that the people have no water, just fireworks! Let them drink those!