Dark Cloud Hangs over Festival of Lights

June 17, 2007

Author: Juggie Naran

Source: IOL.co.za


South African Hindus have fired off a salvo against the government's plans to curb the use of fireworks and have threatened to take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

Last week the deadline closed for the public to comment on national draft fireworks regulations which propose strictly limiting the use of "consumer" fireworks during Diwali to a 48-hour period.

The South African Hindu Dharma Sabha fear that this, and other tough rules on the sale and use of fireworks, would cast a dark cloud over the Festival of Light.

The sabha, which made its submissions on the draft regulations to the government late last month, has since last year also been at the forefront of a heated battle against the eThekwini Municipality's proposed fireworks policy.

While Deputy Mayor Logie Naidoo confirmed on Friday that city officials were still weighing up submission on its policy, the sabha has now turned to rallying its forces in the fight against the national regulations.

Sabha President Ram Maharaj said on Friday that if their submission was not adequately addressed, "we will not hesitate to take it to the highest court in the land".

Maharaj lodged the sabha's objections with Senior Superintendent Dries van Sittert, the SAPS's Chief Inspector of Explosives.

He told Van Sittert that the draft regulations - which fall under the Explosives Act - were unacceptable and unconstitutional.

"Please note that fireworks during the festival of Diwali is of religious and cultural significance to Hindus worldwide.

"Any unfair, unjustifiable legislation impacting negatively on traditional religious practices constitutes a flagrant violation of the constitution," said Maharaj.