Burning waste and particularly the burning of tyres is against the law, and creates a serious health hazard, warns Malakai Sika, CEO of the Waste Authority Ltd., which runs the Tapuhia Landfill site on Tongatapu.
"All people in Tonga, including law enforcement officers, are not permitted to burn waste," he said today, after learning from a Matangi Tonga Online article that cannabis and tyres had been burned at the dump by government officials this week. Related article: Toxic fumes in cannabis burn
"I am trying to meet the Commissioner of Police to discuss this issue and ensure it does not happen again because it is illegal to burn rubbish using tyres."
In response to the burning of confiscated cannabis plants at Tapuhia, Malakai stated that Waste Authority Ltd. "did not authorize the acceptance of the waste for disposal, and certainly not the burning of the waste."
No party had requested the disposal of this waste, he said.
The cannabis plants were burnt on top of tyres witnessed by independent representatives from the Office of the Auditor General, Ministry of Health, Kolofo'ou District Officer, Kolomotu'a Town Officer and Tonga Police.
He said it was not the first time burning has been done by Government. Earlier this year, the Customs Department had burnt confiscated tobacco with a similar method at Ma’ufanga.
"I strongly criticized this event. But now another Ministry came and did the burning at Tapuhia."
He said that burning done by officials "makes our efforts in enforcing the law to stop the public from burning rubbish, especially with tyres, much more difficult."
He said this incident reinforces the requirement that all people in Tonga, including law enforcement officers, are not permitted to burn waste.
"The Waste Authority regrets that this incident occurred and that site staff felt they were not in a position of authority to stop this action," he said.
“We can do better than this. It is important that we all understand that burning rubbish is not acceptable, and that we work together to ensure it does not happen again."
Malakai said the proper procedure that should have been followed was for the Ministry of Police to contact himself or his staff at their head office and seek their approval before they went to Tapuhia.
"If they had advised us we would have advised them on the right and the lawful procedure to destroy the cannabis and not make us look shameful to the public in regards to this," said the CEO.
"Waste Authority is willing to work with MEIDECC, Ministries of Health and Police to come up with a better solution that ensures that the drugs are destroyed, without any impact on the environment or to the health of site workers and nearby communities," he said.