As the Party Boat show continued its second week run, we learnt that a leaked station diary entry indicated that AG Al Rawi was in fact implicated in the police investigation when he was called by the party boat owner on his detention. As the episode proceeded, warrants were issued for the search of the owner’s homes for the restaurant license issued by Customs & Excise. The heavy rotation this scandal has been receiving in certain pro-PNM circles is indicative that AG Al Rawi has become quite unpopular in his party as many PNM members and supporters have come out publicly against his interference and are calling for his removal. Interestingly, some have said that the challenge to AG Al Rawi from within the PNM is far more severe than that posed by the Opposition, at the moment!
The AG fired off his own diversionary squib with a Twitter post on New Year’s Day regarding his drafting of a bill which was relevant to the survival of his dog on “New Years Night”. It might be wise for the AG to avoid personal references in his public duties during this particularly incendiary period for him. He claims a draft bill went before the cabinet in December and it was decided that consultations would ensue. Some of the amendments proposed are to redefine the term ‘fireworks’ and distinguish between ‘toy fireworks’ and ‘proper fireworks’ with fines increased to $1000 for breaches. Fireworks usage would be allowed on all public holidays between 8pm and 9pm and on Old Year’s night from 11:30pm -1am, with application to authorities two weeks in advance. I wonder if the AG thinks that his dog would be any safer if he/she is in the vicinity of “permitted” fireworks on 01.01.2023. The devil is definitely in the noise and perhaps even the light show, NOT the “permit”. I don’t know of anyone who has complained of fireworks usage outside of the “public holiday” associated with such incendiary display.
Studies have shown that the levels of suspended particulate matter (SPM), CO, NOx, hydrocarbons and SO2 in the air, increase to unsafe levels during fireworks displays. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, those with chronic asthma are most vulnerable to such exposure. The SPM levels can cause throat, nose and eye related problems. It can lead to headaches and reduced mental acuity. There are much more severe effects in people with heart, respiratory or nervous system disorders. It can aggravate issues for people suffering from cold allergies or coughs and can also cause congestion of throat and chest.
The associated noise pollution may be just as problematic. The Standard acceptable noise level for the ambient environment is 60 decibels in the daytime and 50 decibels at night. Fireworks can cause these levels to exceed 140 decibels. Noise at upwards of 85 decibels can lead to restlessness, temporary or permanent hearing loss, high blood pressure, and sleep disturbance.
Fireworks can also cause respiratory problems such as: chronic or allergic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis, pneumonia and laryngitis. With the elevated daily rate of new COVID infections, it is not far-fetched to believe that the recent air and noise pollution could have exacerbated the laboured respiratory conditions of such patients.
The effects on animals are similarly distressing. They are easily terrified by loud noises and sudden flashes of bright light which can cause disorientation and they have been known to injure themselves in seeking refuge. The AG’s dog is no different from our other local fauna, domesticated as well as wild, all of them deserving of our consideration and protection.
I personally do not think that fireworks should be banned however there should be stringent guidelines on their use. A major criticism of the bill is that there is no responsibility placed on the distributors of fireworks but only on the consumers and the capacity and availability of resources to the TTPS to implement the proposed laws.
There should be consideration for having access to silent fireworks as an alternative, geographical zonings of their use, a specific number of permits to be approved and to allow the use of fireworks on certain public holidays and not on all public holidays. The various relevant authorities should assess where the most vulnerable are and keep these fireworks displays away from them. Lessons must be learnt as well from stray incendiaries which have caused damage to property as well to life and limb.
In spite of this fireworks distraction, the population is up in arms due to food inflation driven by increased prices in flour and poultry. The sudden suspension of the Food Support Programme will create further distress. The Government should be bringing legislation to deal with runaway food inflation and expanding the Food Support initiative. If these matters are not treated with, effectively, the government will have far more high calibre artillery to deal with than mere fireworks in this election year. It is doubtful that such challenge will come from the other side of the chamber though.