Jail time, $97k fine if persons found with or selling fireworks

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By Shikema Dey

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Every year around special holidays like Christmas and New Year’s, fireworks and firecrackers flood the local market and are usually used to add flare to celebrations countrywide.

But these explosives, if not handled or stored correctly, can pose dangers to users, especially children, who are easily attracted to and fascinated by the colourful lights.

And though it is not widely known, Guyana’s laws contain fines with the possibility of jail time if people are found in possession of these apparatus – fines as high as G$97,000.

Outlined in Chapter 16:06 of the Explosive Act of 2015, it states that “no explosives shall be kept for sale, or shall be stored for any purpose within the limits of the City of Georgetown and the town of New Amsterdam” without the permission of the Minister-in-charge.

The only agency with permission to do so is the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

And anyone found in breach will be subject to a G$97,500 fine with six-month imprisonment. The Act states further that persons who are not “wholesale or retail” dealers with permission from the Minister, that are found selling or offering or exposing the explosives to sale, will be fined $90,500.

It says too that persons must obtain a license to sell explosives on a wholesale basis, but this license would only be granted if there is evidence of sufficient fireproof storage capacity.

And that license must be displayed at the place of sale – “Licensed Retailer of Explosives”- and if not, that person can face a G$19,500 fine.

But despite this, the sale of fireworks and firecrackers are still rampant, but the Guyana Police Force (GPF) announced that it will be clamping down on vendors.

According to GPF’s Public Relations Officer Stan Gouveia, the force will be closely monitoring the usual entry points for smugglers–Suriname and Brazil.

“You do know these tend to be somewhat porous and people take advantage of them to bring the ‘uncustomed’ goods so this is where we increasing monitoring,” he told the News Room.

Many explosives are already on the Guyana market and while a quantity was not given, Gouveia said that the force will be conducting seizures throughout the holiday season.

The dangers posed by fireworks and firecrackers continue to be prevalent in Guyana; in some cases, people were maimed and lives were lost, including professionals, who received years of training to handle such explosives.

The last critical incident occurred in 2020 where four persons were killed in fiery explosions.  The first was in February when 31-year-old Seon Rose, who was part of the GDF’s 21 Artillery Company, died and his team members injured while offloading explosives for Guyana’s 50th Republic Anniversary fireworks display.

The other occurred in April and claimed three lives. The ranks were at the time destroying explosives at GDF’s Camp Stephenson.

Added to that, the loud sounds from these explosives pose a threat to small animals.

Just recently, the Guyana Veterinary Board (GVB) along with the Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission (GWCMC), the Bar Association of Guyana, the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) and the Guyana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) called for action to be taken to curb the issue.

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