Some years ago, the Government introduced legislation that prohibited the importation and use of squibs and explosives on the local market. This was after years of advocacy, especially from animal rights activists.
As Diwali is approaching, these items will be openly sold on the pavements and in the markets.
Every year, communities and villages are inundated with persons throwing firecrackers during Diwali, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations.
The sale and/or purchase of such explosives is illegal under the Customs Act, amended by Act No 1 of 2005, and the Criminal Offences Act, Cap 8:02.
As a matter of fact, the sale and/or purchase of firecrackers commences since Diwali celebrations. Each year, it is hoped that the situation changes and that law enforcement agencies will make an example of the importers, sellers, and buyers.
These little devices are no different from bombs. Our Pet Care columnist, Dr Steve Surujbally, in one of his columns explaining the dangers these devices pose to animals, said, “…whether it is a firecracker or a squib, or any noise-making explosive, it hurts animals. Dogs and cats have sensitive ears. The noise from the explosions disorients and traumatises them. They don’t know what to do. They run indoors and try to hide in secluded places where they think there is security (bathrooms, under beds, in cupboards, etc). They hurt themselves. They run away from home. They jump off the verandah, break their legs or, worse, their necks, or damage their spinal cords, causing paralysis for life.”
In the past, persons have paid the price for failing to heed warnings to desist from playing with these explosives. Persons were left maimed, blind, and without limbs, among other irreparable harm caused when the firecrackers exploded in their faces. Sadly, even toddlers and children have suffered severe burns from either playing with firecrackers or coming into contact with those that were lit by other persons. Yet, despite these many disasters, and in the face of repeated warnings, Guyanese still play with these explosives.
A ban was imposed on all fireworks, and persons caught selling the devices could face fines and jail time, as could persons caught playing with the items. But if this year has been anything to go by, the Police have been incredibly weak in clamping down on this practice and in preventing the banned products from entering the country.
Diwali celebrations each year are greeted by an overwhelming number of dangerous firecrackers popping around the country. The excessive noise suggests that very little – if anything at all – has been done to ensure that the banned products are kept off the market. Too many citizens had banned firecrackers in their possession.
In some areas, young people assembled on the road, lit these explosives, and tossed them, being unconcerned about the dangers in which they were placing innocent people, and the damage they could have done. Motorists are often aggravated about this.
The wide use of firecrackers suggests that the products were easily available on the market, and the Police did not make it their duty to crack down on their illegal importation and sale.
The Police could say that tracking down illegal products and finding every seller of banned firecrackers in every nook and cranny in the country is difficult, perhaps impossible to do; but that is not what we had in mind. Our contention is that when it comes to smuggling, law enforcers are still not on top of the situation.
In previous years, when the Police targeted sellers of firecrackers in the lead-up to Diwali and Christmas celebrations, there was a major difference.
Playing with firecrackers is no longer fun. One of the major concerns about the practice is that citizens cannot distinguish between the sound of a firecracker popping and a gun being fired. So, the Police might want to start paying attention to issues of seemingly lesser consequence, but which in truth hold many dangers.