Firecrackers and illegal fireworks are still in the market

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) has repeatedly called for a strict enforcement of a ban on firecrackers/fireworks for more than 20 years but these calls have fallen on deaf ears.

While we are struggling just to enforce the law, more than 40,000 people signed a petition calling for a new law to ban the public use of fireworks in the United Kingdom (UK). Their reasons are that fireworks cause “alarm, distress and anxiety” to “many people and animals”.

Currently a person violating the fireworks legislation will be fined £5,000 (RM 27,125) or a jail sentence of six months under the U.K. legislation.

The situation is so different from Malaysia. The sound of firecrackers and fireworks can still be heard whenever there is the slightest hint of a festive season although they have been banned under the Explosives Act 1957 (EA 1957) for decades.

Section 4 (2) of the Act stated that “Any person manufacturing, possessing or importing any explosive in contravention of a notification issued under this section shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for five years, or a fine of ten thousand ringgit, or to both.”

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) calls for the amendment of the Act to ensure that a person convicted of manufacturing, possessing or importing of explosives be given a mandatory prison term and confiscate the vehicles in which the firecrackers/fireworks are found.

We urge maximum penalties to be meted out on importers, retailers, and whoever in possession or play with firecrackers/fireworks to show that the Royal Malaysian Police and the Customs really mean business. Otherwise the sentences passed down is viewed as ineffectual.

As for the availability of firecrackers/fireworks in the country, it was reported in 2016 that they have been smuggled across the country’s border with “corruption at official entry points”. Besides being sold by retailers they can also be ordered via viral messaging applications.

In 2016, the former IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar had sternly warned that parents caught buying or allowing their children to play with firecrackers will face a seven-year prison term. We would like to know if this punishment had been carried out and how many parents are serving prison sentence last year.

The blatant violations of EA 1957 for the past decades reflect the emasculated will to implement what had already been passed by the Parliament. We wonder when the firecrackers/fireworks ban under the EA 1957 will be taken seriously rather than be seen as formulating laws for half-hearted implementation.

PRESS RELEASE, 24 January 2018

Driven to Their Graves by Roads

Sahabat Alam  Malaysia (SAM) is appalled at the  frequent occurrences of road kills affecting our endangered species. It has been reported  that since 2011 wild animals such as  civets, wild boars, marbled cats, tapirs and others etc  have been killed in road accidents.

Among wildlife,  mammals  make up the highest number of animals killed in these accidents, accounting  for 1,110 deaths.

According to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (July 14, 2016 – Bernama) these protected species were killed on federal, state and municipal roads involving 61 roads and highway networks in the whole country.

Not surprisingly, most  accidents have taken place in or near forested areas where wild animals tried to cross a road to get from one forest area  to another.

Despite SAM and other wildlife NGOs heightening the harmful effects of roads to wildlife, road density continues to increase with roads criss-crossing the country. Federal and state governments and local transportation departments devote huge budgets to construction and upgrading of roads.

Multinational lending institutions, such as the World Bank, finance roads that dissect the  pristine rainforest, and usher in a flood of settlers who destroy both the rainforest and the indigenous cultures. Public land-managing agencies build thousands of miles of roads each year to support their resource extraction activities.  Most public agencies disregard the ecological impacts of roads, and attempt to justify logging  roads as benefiting the public  and wildlife management.

Although the effects of different types of roads vary, virtually all are bad, and the net effect of all roads is nothing short of catastrophic.

Roadkill does  have a significant impact on wildlife population. The greatest threat posed to wildlife are vehicles on high speed highways.  Unimproved, unpaved roads are less dangerous.  Increases in traffic volume  results in more collisions on any given road, and in our profligate society more people means more cars on virtually every road.

While roadkill statistics take into account the  number of animals killed,  does it  account for animals that crawl off the road to die after being hit?  What about the number of  reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and  birds? Snakes are particularly vulnerable to roadkill, as the warm asphalt attracts them.  What about  the thousands of  insects smashed on windshields?

Despite signboards on animal crossings, transverse bars,  solar amber lights,  animal viaducts, tunnels and pathways at locations  with the highest number of roadkills, wildlife continues to perish.  The questions are:  How effective are the animal crossings in ensuring a lessening of roadkills; and Have any studies been conducted to find  the percentage of  wildlife using the constructed animal crossings?

In fact, roadkills should not  occur at all with  proper planning among the  various agencies before construction of roads and highways  through wildlife habitats.

Roads are  major threats to the survival of wildlife.  They  act  as a displacement factor that affects  animal distribution and movement patterns.  Animal population fragmenting occurs when access corridors that encourage development and logging, traverse through the national forests Poaching of rare plants and animals then occurs threatening the very existence of the forests’  rare flora and  fauna.

Humans incessantly demand  new roads for  connectivity,  forcing wild animals closer to roads and human settlements, so that even new wildlife crossings can do little to save animal lives.

The Ministry of Works (MOW) and the Malaysian Highway Authorities (MHA) must not turn a blind eye to the negative impacts of new roads and highways on the environment.  Reckless planning and construction of new roads could have a huge impact on the surrounding environment and the ecosystem.

Road kills can be avoided  if these government  bodies show  a high level of concern about the importance of wildlife and their conservation and protection. When potential risks to the environment are identified and assessed,   and management options thoroughly considered, road managers, planners and scientists can work together to determine where it is best to site new roads and minimise any ecological damage.

Letter to Editor, 12 October 2017

 

Fire Crackers And Fireworks: Just Enforce The Law!

Instead of ushering a festival in a celebrative environment, it is a yearly event for people to end up in hospital. They suffer severe injuries if they are lucky, otherwise they ended up dead. It is needless but apparently the relevant authorities are not keen in arresting this perennial problem.

This year is a mere repetition of previous years. There were already reported casualties and news of fire crackers and fireworks being blatantly sold at prices ranging from RM2 to RM65 per box at Pasar Ramadhan nationwide.

How can these explosive items be sold openly and it was reported that they can also be ordered via Whatsapp and Facebook? Wholesalers in Klang Valley appoint agents who earn up to 20% from the sale with the aid of a catalogue.

 

Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) has been repeating its call for the enforcement of the ban for more than 30 years and again it has fallen on deaf ears. It is not that we have no laws pertaining to the ban of fire crackers and fireworks; they are banned under the Explosives Act 1957.

Under Section 8 of the Explosive Act 1957 a person may have to serve a maximum seven-year jail sentence, a RM10,000 fine, or both, if convicted of violating the Act.

We understand that in 2015 and 2016, the PDRM waived the ban by issuing permits to a local company to import fireworks/fire crackers. It is puzzling why permits were issued by the PDRM rather than the Home Ministry as required by Section 26 of the Act:

“Regulations 26. The Minister (CAP’s emphasis) may make regulations –

to regulate or prohibit, except under or in accordance with the provisions or conditions of a licence granted under this Act, the manufacture, possession, use, sale, storage, transport, import or export of explosives or of any specified class thereof.”

CAP is amazed how a company was legally issued permits to import and sell firecrackers when a ban has been in place for decades.

As for the illegal fire crackers and fireworks, how did they come into the country in such a large quantity? How did those selling them escape persecution?

Lip service alone is not enough to arrest this problem. JUST enforce the laws!

Press Statement, 21st June  2017

UNEVEN ROADS, CAP URGES THE PENANG GOVERNMENT TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION

Consumers Association Penang (CAP) urges the state government and city council to investigate and take immediate action to solve road problems such as uneven surface, deformation, cracking and potholes in several areas in Penang.

These conditions not only inconvenience and frustrate road users but also raise concerns as it may affect the safety of the road users if left unresolved.

CAP is disappointed as complaints fall on deaf ears over the years with no action being taken by relevant authorities involved.

CAP believes that serious repercussions will befallen road users if such poor road conditions are not being taken seriously by the state government and local authorities.

Among roads that are affected are Bukit Gedung, Bayan Baru, Sungai Ara, Jelutong, Sungai Pinang and Georgetown area.

Based on CAP’s survey, CAP has found that roads around the affected area are cracked, uneven and with potholes after being resurfaced by contractors, causing road users particularly motorcyclists to dodge and at times cause collision on these dangerous roads.

Besides that, CAP has also received complaints from users regarding the road conditions in nearby construction sites; the roads are covered with soil and sand from lorries that transport these materials.   

CAP stresses that if this problem persists, this will pose as a potential threat to the safety of frequent road users particularly motorcyclists which consist of civil servants, factory workers and school students. 

Hence, CAP expects the state government and city council to give full attention and take immediate action to resolve this issue before an accident takes place.

Press Statement, 6th March 2017

BOMBA COMPELS USE OF UNREGULATED AUTOMATIC FIRE ALARM MONITORING SYSTEM

Mr Idris showing the automatic fire alarm monitoring system.

Section 238 of the Uniform Building By-laws 1984 regulates that Automatic Fire Alarm Systems installed in designated premises (i.e. high occupancy premises like hospitals, hotels, schools, factories, etc) must have a direct telephone connection to the appropriate fire station bypassing the switchboard. The “Red phone” in such premises is the direct connection. This system has the approval of the General Insurance Association of Malaysia or PIAM. In dealing with fire emergencies, efficient monitoring of fire-alarms by trained personnel is critical and time is counted in seconds.

Lately, the Fire Department has been complaining that the Computerised Monitoring System (CMS) in use is sending too many false alarms to the fire stations and this is taking too much of its personnel’s’ time monitoring them.

So the Fire Department has decided to stop monitoring the automatic alarms, claiming that the companies providing the CMS system had refused to do anything to lessen the burden of monitoring on the fire department.

However, one of the companies we contacted said it had proposed to set up its own central monitoring stations that would be manned on a 24/7 basis by trained persons but the fire department did not respond to its proposal.

Instead, the Fire Department has appointed one (1) company to provide a different monitoring system which it claims will effectively resolve the false alarms issue. This system is called the SPKA (Sistem Pengawasan Kebakaran Automatik).

It has made it mandatory for the designated premises to change over to the SPKA system, failing which they will not be issued the Annual Fire Certificate.

The company providing the SPKA system does not have any central monitoring station(s) to be manned by trained personnel on a 24/7 basis.

The SPKA system requires the monitoring to be done by a few “responsible persons” in the designated premises. When the fire alarm is triggered in any of the premises, the system will send an SMS alert to the “responsible persons” (who may be busy with their normal duties, on leave, indisposed, outstation or overseas). They need to verify whether the fire alarm is genuine, and if so, call the Fire Department. If there is no response from any of them in a given time, the alarm is automatically re-directed to the fire department. It could still turn out to be a false alarm.

Asking laymen to double-up as fire alarm monitors is shocking. To our knowledge, it is not the practice in any developed countries. In developed countries, private companies supplying fire-detection and automatic alarm systems have to set up their own central monitoring stations that are manned 24/7 by trained personnel. These stations have to meet standards for physical construction and operational performance.

Insurance companies may also deny claims where an insured customers’ fire-alarm system was monitored by ungraded monitoring centres.

The Fire-Department has not explained how the SPKA system could reduce false alarms as several factors can cause alarms to be triggered, e.g. use of fire-hoses to flush drains/floors; steam or dust near/around smoke detectors, etc. The SPKA system does not address the root causes of false automatic alarms.

CAP wants:

·         The Ministry of Housing and Local Government to ensure that the monitoring of automatic fire alarm systems (which the Fire Department does not want to do any longer), is done in proper alarm monitoring stations complying with the standards in developed countries.

·         The Ministry to stop the Fire Department from compelling designated premise owners/occupiers changing over to a system where their own staff/employees must monitor the fire alarms.

·         The Ministry to ensure if monitoring of automatic fire alarms is no longer going to be done by the Fire Department, the job is not monopolised by one (1) company. Private companies should be allowed to compete to set up monitoring stations so that quality service is provided at competitive prices and standards are not compromised.

·         PIAM to inform the designated premise owners / occupiers whether it approves of the SPKA’s system and whether in case of insurance claims from them “self-monitoring” by their own employees will not be used as an excuse to decline claims.

Press Statement, 2 March 2017