(Trinidad Guardian) It’ll be more of a Silent Night this Christmas: “scratch” bombs have at last been banned and declared illegal.
And anyone using them hereon, including students, will face prosecution for an illegal weapon.
This after National Security Minister Stuart Young announced yesterday that Cabinet had decided to ban the importation of scratch bombs immediately.
He said there have been calls for the banning of the item for some time and there have also been reports of incidents of injuries caused to children and adults by scratch bombs.
“This is a real national nuisance,” Young said at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.
“Last year there was an incident in which someone threw a scratch bomb into a vehicle and the woman (in the car), in trying to protect her grandchild, picked up the item to throw it out and it exploded in her hand, causing her to lose fingers.”
In that incident, the woman— Sally-Ann Cuffie—lost parts of her fingers and suffered injuries to other fingers when she threw the scratch bomb out of her family’s car. That incident occurred during Divali 2016 when the family was driving through Las Lomas. During this year’s Divali celebrations, a fire at a property allegedly caused by a scratch bomb left nine people homeless.
Young also noted recent reports of students threatening teachers with scratch bombs.
Earlier this month, a Barataria South Secondary School teacher was hospitalised after he was attacked by a pupil when he found the student detonating scratch bombs on the school’s compound and attempted to take them away.
In another incident this month, the Education Ministry also sought to suspend four Chaguanas North Secondary School students for “scratch bomb-related infractions.” The ministry, which has a zero-tolerance policy on scratch bombs, called for enforcing the maximum punishment on appearance/use of such items following an upsurge of scratch bombs at local schools. The T&T Unified Teachers’ Association also agrees students should face charges for the items.
Yesterday, Young said if anyone is found with a scratch bomb following the importation ban it will be regarded as an illegal weapon.
“So if you’re found with it or detonating it you’ll be charged and brought to court,” he said.
However, Young said it will still be up to the police to enforce the law on this.
“And I’m sure they’ll do so,” he said, adding no new law is needed to effect the ban once ordered by the ministry immediately.
Schools will be safer— Garcia
Education Minister Anthony Garcia yesterday said he was elated at the Cabinet’s decision to outlaw scratch bombs.
“The decision is in sync with the recent review of our code of conduct policy which states incendiary devices like scratch bombs are prohibited within schools. I’d already decided that any student found with this item or detonating it will be immediately suspended and I’d asked principals for extended suspensions and investigations on such matters,” Garcia said in a telephone interview.
“Cabinet’s decision goes a little further since it’ll cause any new offending student to be hauled before the courts. We can simply no longer tolerate students wilfully and maliciously disrupting the education of others.
“Teachers in schools from North to South have constantly complained that apart from disruptive noises scratch bombs cause, in some instances both teachers and students have suffered ear drum-related damage, difficulty in hearing and in some cases, ear and nose bleeding.”
He also said the Barataria school teacher who was attacked by the student he attempted to seize scratch bombs from is out of the hospital. The student has been suspended and the matter is now subject of a case conference involving school/ministry officials and the parents.
Fire One Fireworks managing director Andre Abraham also yesterday commended Government for the ban.
“Scratch bombs are the enemy of Fire One Fireworks. We don’t sell this,” Abraham said.
“These items are illegally imported and they’re very dangerous and over-powered – four times the power of what is legal in the US market. They have no labelling, no warnings, they’re sold by people driven solely by profit.”
He added: “But our products are inspected by independent US labs and are premium products. We’d love to collaborate with authorities to provide knowledge on what to look for with illegal items. T&T’s laws governing the fireworks industry also need complete overhauling and tightening to be much stricter.”