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Saturday 15 December 2018
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Letters to the Editor

Banning scratch bombs only will bring no relief

THE EDITOR: The other day I asked my dog, “You know the difference between scratch bombs and fireworks?” The mere mention of the words caused him to panic. After I had calmed him, I asked again. He slowly shook his head from side to side, “No.”

There’s probably a legal distinction somewhere but when your senses are being assaulted by noise (scratch bombs, fireworks, loud “music”), does the distinction really matter?

Almost two years ago to the day, in December 2016, then minister of public administration and communications Maxie Cuffie “assured stakeholders and citizens concerned about the issue of scratch bombs and illegal fireworks that their views have been heard and he will forward their suggestions to the Attorney General.”

In the same release, he said, “Scratch bombs are illegal and the use of fireworks in an area defined as a ‘town,’ including Port of Spain, without permission from the Commissioner of Police at least 48 hours in advance is illegal.”

Two years later, nothing has changed except that National Security Minister Richard Young has now promised “to make an order covering, in the broadest possible terms, all categories of explosives that are generically described as ‘scratch bombs’ illegal for anyone to import and sell this category of explosives.” Promising words. And careful.

In all his pronouncements about “prohibition,” the minister has been very careful to avoid the word “fireworks.” This leads me to believe that he has no intention of banning the sale of fireworks to private individuals. Once again, the long-suffering public will be left in the lurch, with no protection from the noise.

My trusty dictionary defines “firework” as “a device containing gunpowder and other combustible chemicals that cause a spectacular explosion when ignited.”

Note the loophole the minister gives himself when people claim that “fireworks are explosives” and are covered by any ban. He can say it is true fireworks are explosives but they are not generically described as “scratch bombs,” so they are not covered by the order. Then we’ll be back to square one – relief from scratch bombs but not from fireworks, which is no relief at all.

Young seems to have missed the point (deliberately?) that people are not concerned about scratch bombs, per se. They are concerned about the risk and nuisance posed by all explosive devices – scratch bombs and fireworks – in the hands of private individuals. We don’t care what they are called – Spanish crackers or scratch bombs. They pose the same threats, and should all be banned.

I enjoy a grand fireworks display as much as the next person, but not in crowded residential areas and, certainly, not by amateurs. The risk to life and property is too great.

While banning scratch bombs is a step in the right direction, and I commend the minister if he delivers on his promise, it will do little or nothing to alleviate the pain and trauma suffered by the majority of voiceless citizens, especially the elderly and animals.

I’m afraid his intention to ban scratch bombs only is a mere token gesture. He will appear to be doing something to appease the population but this will not alleviate the suffering of beleaguered citizens.

The only practical solution is a complete ban on the private discharge of explosive devices, and by definition these include fireworks. But perhaps I wrong Young in thinking he will not outlaw fireworks. Time will tell.

NOEL KALICHARAN via e-mail

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