Groggy as I am on a Sunday morning (having lost one hour to the time switch), reading the news becomes a difficult task. When I find an article in the Times about five tanks of explosive material found floating off Popeye Village my sleepy mind conjures up a mixture of images involving Spinach, Guy Fawkes and the Boston Tea Party – not necessarily in that order.
Ever since the unfortunate Naxxar incident, possession and illegal storage of firework material has become the hottest potato on the island. Some people would rather be caught with a couple of kilos of Colombia’s finest than have a suffarell hiding under their pillow. Which is ironic. The law has not changed. Yet. The Report of the Fireworks Commission still sits on the Justice Minister’s desk (CMB), the Attorney General is still busy putting the final touches to the necessary amendments and parliament has not met to discuss any potential further measures that would require more than a Ministerial Nihil Obstat. So if the crime is not punishable in a harsher way than before – if you would still be liable to ridiculous fines as were the Gozitans found guilty earlier last week – why has there this been sudden change?
I think we have an interesting development here. We can compare it to another illegal issue – hunting – that might benefit from reporting. In the case of illegally stored fireworks the “X’gharukaza” Factor is multiplied by the riks posed to human life. It’s not just the life of those storing the materials but also of those around them. Hence if you had tolerated the farmer next door storing fireworks o.b.o the local festa committee and were previously scared to report for fear of the repercussions and possible ostracisation, now you will report because (a) the wool has been lifted from your eyes and you are aware of the danger (finally) and (b the social repercussion issue has swung in your favour – from gifa (Judas) of the village you become hero and saviour. This added value in Whistleblowing in Firework storage does not exist when we look at hunting – the only ones who report are those who have put their necks on the line and are prepared to face the hunters without the backing of a spineless authority.
From Gozo to Popeye Village our society moved “despite” the law and authority. The involvement of the administration was minimal – apart from taking action once the report was submitted. The government still falls short of doing what is necessary so long as regulation of legal fireworks factories and harsher punishments for illegal ones are not introduced. In the meantime we will enjoy the fantastical situation where every village will pop out its local hero who uncovers another dastardly devious bastard who has been stocking the “kaxxa tan-nar” in his living room. The hero will get his fifteen minutes of fame…. and many a minute of flame will be avoided. Not thanks to our politicians.