Banned but plentiful, despite reports of police seizing smuggled fireworks, as in the recent Kuala Nerang case in Kedah. Not surprisingly then, that with every approaching Hari Raya, children are being maimed by fireworks. Just early this month, a 9-year-old boy lost three fingers and tore his palm while playing with firecrackers. The logic is straightforward: smugglers are bringing in a lot more than what gets seized. There is, therefore, an indisputable urgency for smuggling to be eliminated, not merely because all kinds of contraband items are carried across, but some items brought in are dangerous and can be lethal. In the recent case, the smugglers are said to have used the numerous rat lanes cutting across the Malaysia-Thai border, which makes policing difficult. This porousness is exacerbated by corruption at official entry points; allegations resulting from investigations conducted by this newspaper at the time when the human trafficking camps were discovered in Wang Kelian, Perlis.
Therefore, when countries are busy erecting barriers — fences and walls — along their borders to keep illegal immigrants out as in Europe, for example, and in Palestine where the Israelis are depriving Palestinians access to their own olive groves, is it not only logical for Malaysia to do the same to stop smugglers? If there are physical barriers, then it will not only stop the smuggling, but will also stop corruption at official entry points. When there is no other way in, and yet the smuggling continues, then it can safely be assumed that the gatekeepers are on the take. Meanwhile, the fireworks menace — though worse in terms of injury during the Hari Raya season in spite of the ban — arrives with every celebration, from the New Year through major festive seasons that Malaysians celebrate. Fireworks are illegal and the law is clear, but the noise into the early hours of the morning during Chinese New Year and severe injuries to young children in Ramadan show otherwise. It, therefore, begs the question: how is it, although illegal, fireworks are available to the general public without need for permits? How are traders able to sell them freely at Ramadan bazaars and night markets?
Even if sales were conducted underground, say, the way drugs are pushed, would not the noise and lights be a dead giveaway? Apparently not, because one does not hear of offenders or members of the public being prosecuted for possession and use of fireworks. For example, does an injury that takes a child to hospital result in an investigation to ascertain the supply route, and then prosecute the suspects? Instead, angry residents may be awakened by incessant loud bangs from firecrackers at 1am on the eve of Chinese New Year, and sometimes, the neighbourhood rich guy may decide to hold an elaborate pyrotechnics show to usher in festive seasons. Again, how is this possible? The solution then, is to get to the source, the suppliers, so to speak. Crack down on the suppliers, followed by the traders, and lastly, those who buy fireworks. All of them must be held accountable and punishment must be meted out as deterrent. A general reminder to the public: stop buying fireworks. If there is no demand, supply will eventually stop.