Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Allowing firecrackers but with conditions

I can’t remember the exact year the government of Malaysia bans firecrackers during Chinese New year and other celebrations. If my memory is right, that year should be 1994. The decision back then was because firecrackers caused many injuries and fire.
As lighting the “ang powh” or red firecrackers was the tradition of the Chinese to ward off bad sprit for the year and also to bring prosperity, I remember the then president of MCA Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik asked the Chinese community to substitute it with the sound of the red firecrackers from the music. What a idea!  These red firecrackers also always accompany the lion dance and the red carpet of papers they created after said is said to bring “ong” or good luck and prosperity to the family or the place.
Well, since then when can still get our supply of firecrackers but via the illegal way. Understandably, it is also more expensive. Someone will still smuggle them from China and distribute it to the whole country. We never face any shortage of supply every year since the ban. Now, firecrackers is no longer is Chinese affair because during Hari Raya and Deepavali, we will see or hear them being played.
Lighting of "ang powh" infront of my hometown house, circa 2011.

Although it is illegal, but my family will still lit the firecrackers on the first day of the Chinese New Year to accompany the lion dance. The police will patrol all the house areas and kampung in my hometown but usually they won’t fine anyone for lighting a firecracker. As if this is the Malaysian way and understanding between the people and the police, they will go away after getting their red packets.

As the year pass, the type of firecrackers also improved into different kind with greater sound and effect like those we see being displayed by shopping malls during New Year celebration. We can usually buy them illegally starting from RM 350. A friend who sells this illegally told me that he made good money every year amounting to 5 figures. (Gosh, I also want to sell!! Joking!)
Instead of losing custom revenues to illegal smuggling and also revenue from sales tax, the government should allow firecrackers to be sold again during Chinese New Year and other festive seasons. Firecrackers will not go away in this country. By hook or crook, people will find way to get them. Of course the legalising of firecrackers have to come with conditions such as it can only be lit at open space like a field to avoid fire and can only be sold to adults to avoid injuries among kids. The seller must also obtain a license to sell them to make sure those they sell are of good quality. There are many more conditions that the government can apply.
I was in China during Chinese New Year in 2010 and 2011. I had a good time there playing with fireworks and firecrackers and of course it is under some sort of control. Perhaps we can learn from China about this.
Politically, this will also give political mileage to BN for it is sure that the Chinese community will welcome this move. Not only that, other races will also be happy about it.It may be late to implement this for the year of Dragon but we can always start from somewhere.

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