No one can deny that fireworks and firecrackers will significantly boost the festive mood, but this should not take precedence over the public’s safety.
Although the government’s decision to legalize fireworks and firecrackers has not caused a big stir in the Malaysian society, it has aroused serious attention and public discussions.
The government passed the law to ban the playing of fireworks and firecrackers back in 1995, which went into effect the following year. Under the law, all forms of fireworks and firecrackers would be banned during festive seasons or any other occasion.
Then prime minister Tun Mahathir was of the view that playing of fireworks and firecrackers could bring serious undesirable consequences and the government decided to completely ban them for the safety of the public.
For over two decades since the ban first went into effect, there have been numerous calls to lift the ban, although such efforts have often ended up in vain mainly because of the perceived risks with the playing of fireworks and firecrackers.
But even as the ban was still very much in place, we could hear and see fireworks bursting into the night sky during festive seasons. In Lunar New Year, for instance, fireworks and firecrackers are often seen as “essentials” which many people would risk getting arrested to set them off in a bid to boost the festive atmosphere.
In other words, for over two decades successive administrations have failed to fully control Malaysians’ lust for fireworks.
And since the public were denied legal access to fireworks, many resorted to illegal/underground channels to acquire these explosives, causing the government to lose humongous amounts in tax revenue while triggering much bigger safety concerns on lack of strict government supervision over the products.
Considering the above factors, the unity government has decided to lift the two-decade ban on fireworks.
Local government development minister Nga Kor Ming explained that legalizing fireworks and firecrackers could significantly expand the government’s tax collection, hence reduce public debts, while overseeing the safety of the products.
Indeed the authorities have valid reasons for their decision, but this has met with polarized reactions from the Malaysian public owing to grave safety concerns.
Following the legalization of fireworks, the government is expected to rake in hundreds of millions in tax collection. Nevertheless, the rakyat’s safety must always be the priority concern.
No doubt the dazzling colors of fireworks and deafening sounds of firecrackers will tremendously boost the festive mood, the hidden risks behind the bursts of color and sound do warrant some serious consideration because the ugly face of danger often shows up when we let our guard down in jovial celebration.
We have read too many instances of fireworks-induced injuries over the years. A 17-year-old Kelantanese teenager had two of his left fingers blown off while a ten-year-old boy had his left eye blinded by mercun bola. Late last month, a lion dance trouper’s right eye was blinded by fireworks in an accident.
Such tragic incidents have highlighted the safety concerns and risks of fireworks. This aside, uncontrolled setting off of fireworks in the middle of the night also causes sleep disruption for many local residents.
Now that the government has decided to legalize fireworks, it must set out the rules and guidelines and strictly monitor the products’ safety in order to minimize the risks as well as public disturbance.
Nga has put it very clearly that the government will enact new laws to control fireworks, including setting out specific time and locations where fireworks can be played, and making permit application mandatory, among others. It is hoped that members of the public will cooperate with the unity government for enhanced safety awareness instead of uncontrolled indulgence.
No one can deny that fireworks and firecrackers will significantly boost the festive mood but this should not take precedence over the public’s safety.
The utmost priority on the issue of fireworks legalization must be the public’s safety. While the lucrative tax revenue is tempting, it must never be at the expense of the people’s safety.
As such, the government must draw up appropriate plans and measures to institute effective controls and law enforcement.