An animal rights activist is considering filing a lawsuit over the ability of the Commissioner of Police to approve fireworks displays in Port-of-Spain and other major towns across T&T, with a specific view to challenging planned fireworks displays for Independence Day.
Lawyers representing Marissa Ramnath signalled her intention in a letter sent to acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob yesterday afternoon.
In the letter, Ramnath’s lawyer Kiel Taklalsingh pointed to Section 99 of the Summary Offences Act, which creates an offence for discharging fireworks in a city or town except in accordance with associated regulations from the Minister of National Security.
Section 101 of the legislation empowers the minister with the authority to prescribe the regulations which dictate the times, places and conditions under which fireworks may be let off in urban areas.
Taklalsingh noted that while regulations were created pursuant to the legislation, they did not prescribe the “places” and “conditions” and instead delegated a power to grant permission for firework displays to the Police Commissioner.
“Respectfully, the Minister’s statutory duty to prescribe the times, places, and conditions for the use of fireworks are inalienable and cannot be surrendered to the Commissioner of Police,” Taklalsingh said.
“To do so would be to unlawfully fetter his discretion,” he added.
In the letter, Taklalsingh sought to register his client’s vehement objection to any granting of permission, especially for upcoming Independence Day celebrations at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain.
He claimed that Ramnath, who has helped finance the construction and operations of several animal shelters, was especially concerned about the effect of fireworks on household pets and animals at the Emperor Valley Zoo.
“My client is of the view that the use of fireworks constitutes abuse and maltreatment of animals and therefore its use in such close proximity to the zoo should not be permitted,” Taklalsingh said.
He also pointed to the fact that the Queen’s Park Savannah is located in close proximity to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
“The use of fireworks and loud noises may negatively affect persons who are ill and/or who may be recovering from illness,” he said.
He also suggested that Jacob should also consider the issue with the regulations, which may be the subject of an eventual lawsuit.
In the letter, Taklalsingh called on Jacob to inform his client of any application he receives so she can respond to it. He also requested that Jacob provide written reasons if he still decides to grant permission.
Last year, Ramnath, through her legal team, wrote to former attorney general and current Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi over delays in proclaiming the Animals (Diseases and Importation) (Amendment) Act 2020.
The legislation sought to address cruelty towards animals, which were not covered by existing animal cruelty laws that only deal with domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, cows, sheep, and goats. The legislation was subsequently proclaimed.
In January, Al-Rawi proposed new legislation to regulate the use of fireworks, including limiting its use on public holidays and for New Year celebrations on December 31. Public consultations are expected before the proposed legislation is considered by Parliament.
Ramnath is also represented by Dinesh Rambally, Stefan Ramkissoon and Rhea Khan.