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     FrontPage Edition: Mon 5 January 2004

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Firecrackers reappear after 30 years

Hallo

Last Saturday, firecrackers made its first appearance since the Government banned it in Singapore in 1972 - more than 30 years ago.

I had a fun-filled childhood when these little things were a common sight in the 1960's. In fact, if I remember correctly, I last let off firecrackers in 1970, when I was in Primary 6.

The next year, the Government imposed a partial ban, followed by a blanket ban in 1972. Since then, I have sorely missed having to put up with the thunderous noise made by these firecrackers on Chinese New Year's Eve when every Chinese household, rich or poor, would sling a whole roll of firecrackers over their HDB corridor parapet before lighting it up. And, come morning, the entire neigbourhood would be covered in a sea of red paper.

Modern-day video arcades and Gameboy-type gadgets can never rival the fun which the simple firecrackers brought us babyboomers then. Those below 40 today are unable to appreciate the nostalgic attachment that we babyboomers as well as those older felt over the weekend when some 10,000 firecrackers exploded in unison over the pedestrian bridge between Chinatown and People's Park Complex.  

The Government was right in allowing firecrackers to reappear in Singapore after such a long time. We need something lively to welcome the Chinese New Year. Of course, now that firecrackers have reappeared here, many people have started asking themselves whether they would soon be allowed to let off firecrackers in the housing estates.

But, we must not forget the events that led to the banning of firecrackers in Singapore. In February 1970, six people were killed, 68 were injured and S$350,000 worth of damage to properties was incurred as a result of explosions and fires caused by firecrackers. That year, the Government imposed a partial ban.

In spite of the partial ban, nine people were injured during the Chinese New Year period in 1971. And in 1972, two unarmed policemen were attacked brutally when they tried to stop a group of people who were firing firecrackers unlawfully. So, in June 1972, the Government implemented the Dangerous Fireworks Act and imposed a total ban on firecrackers.

I am not against reintroducing firecrackers here. On the contrary, I am all for it. When DMP Lee Hsien Loong was asked whether housing estates would get a chance to see the letting off of firecrackers, he reportedly said that we should take one step at a time. I agree with him. We wouldn't want a repeat of what happened in the early 1970s, would we?

Have a good week!

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Public Holidays CHINESE NEW YEAR is the next public holiday period. It falls on 22 & 23 January 2004.