Saturday, 1 February 2014

AHPETC convicted for operating unlicenced fair


* Workers' Party-run town council fined $800 over unlicensed fair
It pays fine but council chairman says it plans to take the case to High Court
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 25 Dec 2014

THE town council run by the Workers' Party (WP) was fined $800 yesterday for holding a Chinese New Year trade fair earlier this year without a permit.

It paid the fine but town council chairman Sylvia Lim told reporters after the hearing that it plans to take the case to the High Court as "we are not satisfied with the outcome". Ms Lim, who is also WP chairman, said she is consulting lawyers on the course of action that the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) can take.

Among the options is to appeal against the conviction or get a judicial review of the law.

During sentencing in court, District Judge Victor Yeo said he agreed with the prosecution that the town council was deliberate and persistent in breaching the law, having run the Hougang Central Hub fair for the full course of 22 days despite warnings to cease operations.

He said the court must send a clear signal that a permit must be obtained from the National Environment Agency (NEA) for temporary fairs, to ensure unlicensed fairs are not held indiscriminately. He added that fair organisers who are unhappy with the terms and conditions stipulated by the NEA have options. These include: not going ahead with the activity or exploring avenues of appeal under the law.

During the trial, AHPETC's lawyers had questioned the validity and reasonableness of documents the NEA required for getting a permit for temporary fairs.

One of them is a letter of support from the area's Citizens Consultative Committee, which is a group of grassroots leaders appointed by the Government.

The prosecution, in dismissing the argument, said it was a "tired and unconvincing" argument, and demonstrated the town council's complete absence of remorse.

The defence, however, reiterated the argument during its mitigation plea, saying its submission of documents that it deemed reasonable showed "substantial compliance". Hence, it argued for a nominal fine of $200.

But Judge Yeo said "the tenor and substance of the mitigation plea only serves to further fortify my view" that the objection appeared to be the conditions rather than the requirement of a permit. A nominal fine, he added, would send a wrong signal that fair organisers could choose to disengage or disregard the authorities and get away with a small fine.

Following a revision of the Environmental Public Health Act this year, the maximum fine was raised to $10,000, from April 1. Previously, the top fine was $1,000.

Ms Lim told reporters that the town council paid the fine as "we respect the court's decision".

She also said it decided to contest the case in court because "it concerns how a government agency should exercise its power conferred by law, and whether it acts in a fair and just manner". AHPETC did not do it "to create trouble for a government agency".

She also said AHPETC is being hampered in its management of common areas under its charge.

"Today is Christmas Eve, and Hougang Central Hub is empty because we are unable to organise activities to benefit residents and businesses in the area.





Workers' Party's AHPETC fined $800 for running CNY fair without permit: 5 things to know about the case
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 24 Dec 2014

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), run by the Workers' Party, was taken to court over a Chinese New Year fair that it held in Hougang Central in January this year.

At the heart of the case was whether the town council, whose chairman is Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim, flouted Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act by holding the fair without a permit.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), prosecuting the case, said it did, but the town council challenged the charge.

In a judgement in November, District Judge Victor Yeo said the event was a “temporary fair” and therefore required a permit. The town council was fined $800 on Dec 24.

Here are five things of note about the case:

1. How the case ended up in the State Court

On Dec 20 last year, AHPETC sent an e-mail to the NEA to ask if it would need a permit for the fair. The NEA's reply, three days later, said that a permit was required. It sent the relevant application forms: for a Trade Fair Permit and a Trade Fair Foodstall Licence.

The town council regarded the forms as unsuitable. But as the NEA insisted that permits were required, the town council submitted the forms on Dec 31, but struck off the words "Trade Fair" in the forms and substituted them with the word "Event".

On Jan 4, the NEA responded saying that the application was still missing other required documents.

On Jan 8, AHPETC submitted some of these additional documents, including an approval from the Singapore Civil Defence Force on fire safety measures.

A day later, the NEA informed it that the application was still incomplete and could not be processed.

But the town council went ahead with the fair, which ran from Jan 9 to Jan 30.

The NEA sent warnings, saying the fair must be stopped until a permit was granted. But AHPETC did not comply.

The town council was served with a summons on Jan 27 and was also given the option to pay a composition fine in lieu of prosecution.

But AHPETC decided to challenge the summons by claiming trial.

Six stall holders at the fair were also summoned for illegal hawking. They have compounded their offences.


2. Letter of support from the Citizens Consultative Committee

Among the supporting documents required for a permit to be granted, was a letter of support from the Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC) of the area.

Hougang Central came under the ambit of Bedok Reservoir-Punggol CCC, which is chaired by a government-appointed grassroots leader.

The letter was one of the documents missing from the town council's application.

During the hearing, Ms Lim explained why: "Since my colleagues and I were elected to manage the town council under the Town Councils Act, we do not see how the town council should be required to get a supporting letter from the CCC for something held in the common area under our charge."

AHPETC had also argued that a permit was not needed since the event was held in an area under its charge.

But Judge Yeo said the Town Council Act did not give a town council complete freedom to act as it wished, without regard to other prevailing laws and regulations.


3. A matter of forms

Another issue that emerged in court centred on the application forms for the permit.

The NEA sent application forms for a Trade Fair Permit and a Trade Fair Foodstall Licence. Both had to be completed by the fair operator.

The application form states that "only grassroots organisations and charitable, civic, educational, religious or social institutions are allowed to hold fairs".

As the town council was organising the fair and did not appoint an operator, it considered the forms "not suitable or relevant", Ms Lim said in court.

But it did submit the forms, after amending them with the word "Event".

Lawyers for the town council also attempted to question the NEA over a change in the wording of the form, in which the words "town councils" was omitted.

They compared the current application form to one in July 2008 which said that "only grassroots organisations, town councils and charitable, civic, educational, religious or social institutions are allowed to hold fairs".

The prosecution objected saying this was irrelevant as the issue before the court is whether the event needed a permit.

Judge Yeo, in his judgement, said: “The true objection in my view appeared to be the conditions stated in the application form, and not that a permit was required per se.”


4. Does size matter?

The Chinese New Year fair, which was on a 560 sq m space between Blocks 811 and 814, had five stalls selling festive decorations, cookies and sweets, fruits, flowers and assorted potted plants.

Lawyers for the town council said it was a "mini-fair" or "event", and so did not require a permit.

Under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act, a permit is required for "any temporary fair, stage show or other such function or activity".

The NEA's lawyer argued that the law does not make a distinction "between mini-fairs and what has been termed for the purposes of contrast as 'large fairs'... (and) only talks about temporary fairs with no reference to size".

This was affirmed by Judge Yeo who said the event fits the dictionary definition of a “fair”, which is a gathering of buyers and sellers at a particular place and time.

He noted the law makes no reference to the purpose or type of fair, its size, scale, location or duration.


5. What's at stake?

The town council was found guilty of operating a trade fair without a permit and has been fined $800.

It could have been fined a maximum of $1,000.

However, following amendments to the law that kicked in on April 1, the maximum fine for such an offence is now $10,000. AHPETC was not subject to this as its fair took place before the tougher penalties took effect.





No permit for fair: Town council found guilty
Judge says CNY event required a permit
He says AHPETC broke law, event fits dictionary definition of a 'fair'
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

THE town council run by the Workers' Party (WP) has been found guilty of breaking the law by holding a Chinese New Year event this year without a permit.

District Judge Victor Yeo, in delivering his judgment yesterday, said the event from Jan 9 to Jan 30 at Hougang Central was a "temporary fair" and thus required a permit under the Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA).

Judge Yeo said it fits the dictionary definition of a "fair": a gathering of buyers and sellers at a particular place and time. He noted the law makes no reference to the purpose or type of fair, its size, scale, location or duration.

He will pass sentence on the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) on Dec 24. It can be fined up to $1,000.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) had, before the trial, offered the town council a composition fine but it was rejected.

Over 2½ days of hearings last month, AHPETC argued that the fair, with five stalls selling items like cookies between blocks 811 and 814, was a "community event" or a "mini-fair" to bring festive cheer.

Therefore, it disputed NEA's argument that it was a "temporary fair" that required a permit.

Yesterday, the judge said he found it "exceedingly puzzling" that AHPETC did not once raise its objections with the NEA over the requirement of a permit.

Instead, it submitted an application form, replacing the words "trade fair" with "event" and did not attach all the necessary supporting documents. While it sought approval for fire safety, its application form did not include a letter of support from the area's Citizens' Consultative Committee.

AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim had previously testified that this condition was "unreasonable".

Judge Yeo, noting Ms Lim's testimony that AHPETC would have submitted the form in full if it were suitable, said: "The true objection in my view appeared to be the conditions stated in the application form, and not that a permit was required per se."

He added: "To now vigorously mount a challenge that there was no requirement for the town council to apply for a permit is simply unconvincing to say the least, or a mere afterthought at worse."

AHPETC had cited Section 18 of the Town Councils Act to claim that a permit was not needed as the event was held in a common area under their charge. Section 18 says a town council is to "control, manage, maintain and improve the common property of residential and commercial property in the housing estates".

But Judge Yeo found the argument "wholly misconceived and untenable". He said the Act does not impinge on the EPHA, which deals with "wider environmental and public health concerns which affect the public at large", such as pest infestation and noise nuisance, he added.

He agreed with the prosecution that the Town Councils Act does not "give (a town council) carte blanche to do whatever it chooses within its precinct without any regard to the requirements of the prevailing laws and regulations".

AHPETC's vice-chairmen Pritam Singh and Png Eng Huat said: "We are disappointed with the verdict but we will consult our lawyers on our legal options and do not rule anything out."

NEA said last night operators of temporary fairs need a licence to address public health concerns. It took action against 16 unlicensed fair operators between 2011 and Oct 31 this year. These fairs were in Tampines, Toa Payoh, Simei, Clementi, Kovan City, Bukit Merah, Kampong Glam, Chinatown, Serangoon North, Rivervale Walk and Tanglin Halt.






Verdict on Friday for Workers' Party town council trial over Chinese New Year event
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 26 Nov 2014

A JUDGE will rule on Friday on whether the town council run by the Workers' Party broke the law when it held a Chinese New Year event without a permit.

District Judge Victor Yeo adjourned judgment yesterday, after hearing prosecutors from the National Environment Agency (NEA) and lawyers for the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) sum up their arguments.

There were sharp words from the prosecution, who accused the AHPETC of, among other things, a "wanton, blatant transgression" of the law.

The council faces one charge under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act, which requires a permit for "any temporary fair, stage show or other such function or activity".

But the town council maintains that the event from Jan 9 to Jan 30 in Hougang Central was a "community event" or a "mini-fair" held within a common space that it was managing.

Hence, it did not need a permit, its lawyers argued, pointing to Section 18 of the Town Councils Act. It says a town council is to "control, manage, maintain and improve the common property of residential and commercial property in the housing estates".

NEA prosecutors countered that the law does not give town councils "unfettered powers" to manage estates. They still have to adhere to laws, and are "not given carte blanche to do whatever (they) want", the prosecution said, adding that permits are required for public entertainment or assemblies held in common areas run by a town council.

Also, the event, which had five stalls selling items like potted plants, cookies and flowers in an area nearly the size of three tennis courts between Blocks 811 and 814, fits the "plain and ordinary meaning" of a temporary fair, NEA lawyers added.

On another point, the AHPETC argued it has taken reasonable care not to flout the law.

NEA lawyers called this an "inconceivable leap of logic", because AHPETC not only initiated contact with the agency on whether a permit was required, but also "blatantly ignored" subsequent orders to stop the event because it did not have a permit.

A permit is required by law because of social concerns that might arise from fairs being held indiscriminately, such as noise pollution, said NEA lawyers.

The AHPETC insisted it did all it reasonably could, by submitting forms that were asked for, like those for fire safety approval. But it did not get a letter of approval from the area's Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC), which was chaired by a People's Action Party grassroots leader. It had deemed the requirement "unreasonable", and that the CCC was "unelected".

If convicted, the town council can be fined up to $1,000.






Verdict in WP town council trial likely by end of Nov
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 17 Oct 2014

THE trial of the Workers' Party (WP) town council for allegedly flouting the law in holding a Chinese New Year event without a permit ended yesterday, after 2½ days of hearings.

The defence closed its case after calling WP chairman Sylvia Lim and two employees of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) to the stand. The two employees testified on procedural matters, such as the authenticity of documents central to the trial.

District Judge Victor Yeo is expected to give his decision by the end of next month.

Earlier in the day, National Environment Agency (NEA) prosecutor Isaac Tan, in cross-examining Ms Lim, who chairs the town council, challenged her reasons for going ahead with the January event even without a permit.

Mr Tan accused AHPETC of "deliberately and persistently flouting the law". He noted that the NEA had from the outset said the event needed a permit under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act. But AHPETC, despite thinking otherwise, did not once tell the NEA its stance that the event was a "mini-fair" or "community event" that did not need a permit, he said.

AHPETC had used these terms to describe the event during the trial, arguing that it was not a "trade fair" or "temporary fair" as classified under the Act.

Mr Tan argued: "If the town council truly believed it did not require a permit, it would have put that unequivocally (to the NEA)."

Ms Lim, an MP for Aljunied GRC, disagreed. She said it was for a "higher authority" - and not the town council - to decide this. Hence, AHPETC avoided bringing up legal issues in its correspondence with the NEA at the time.

She added that the nature of the event, held between Blocks 811 and 814 in Hougang Central, was evident in its name: Lunar New Year Flora and Community Fair 2014.

A fellow MP, Mr Low Thia Khiang, had also written a letter to the NEA saying the event would bring "a sense of holiday cheer to the community", she said.

Mr Tan argued that AHPETC's submission of the trade fair application form indicated it accepted the NEA's advice that a permit was needed. This was even as it replaced the term "trade fair" with "event" and submitted a letter saying the form "does not represent our agreement (with NEA) as to the nature of the event".

Ms Lim disagreed, saying the application form was submitted only on the NEA's insistence.

The town council was "trying to take a practical way to solve the impasse" by providing some of the documents requested by the NEA, such as approval from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, even though it did not agree with how the NEA termed the event, said Ms Lim.

But it did not submit a complete application because it deemed the NEA's requirements unreasonable. "If the NEA had given us a form suitable for our purposes, we would have submitted it in full," she said.

She also said the event ran its full course from Jan 9 to 30 despite the NEA's orders to stop operations, because AHPETC found the agency's procedures to be in conflict with its responsibilities under the Town Councils Act.

"We came to the conclusion that these matters may need to be resolved by the court."

Earlier in the trial, the prosecution said a composition fine was offered to the town council but it was rejected. Defence counsel Peter Low gave two reasons for it: The town council was not guilty of the charge and it wanted to know when and under what circumstances a permit is granted.





Town council above board: Sylvia Lim
WP chairman defends move to hold event without permit
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 16 Oct 2014

WORKERS' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim yesterday set out in court why her town council had gone ahead with a Chinese New Year event in Hougang Central, even though it did not have a permit for it.

She also said the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) had been above board in the matter - it had taken the first step in approaching the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Dec 20 last year, to ask whether a permit was needed for the event. It did so because of "some confusion on the ground" about the NEA's policies, said Ms Lim, who chairs the town council.

She said she had understood from "persons in the industry" - whom she did not name - that NEA was "not interested to look into events where there was no open food (food cooked on-site) sold and events of a small scale (of) 15 stalls or less".

The event, which ran from Jan 9 to Jan 30, was held in a 560 sq m space between Blocks 811 and 814. It had five stalls selling festive decorations, cookies, flowers, assorted fruit and potted plants.

Ms Lim, who is also an MP for Aljunied GRC, added: "I decided it was important for the town council to initiate communication with NEA. This was to show that we didn't mean to hide anything."

The trial before District Judge Victor Yeo, which started on Tuesday, will decide if AHPETC had flouted the law in holding the event without a permit. The town council claims it was a "community event" or a "mini-fair". It disputes NEA's assertions that it was a "trade fair" or a "temporary fair" and hence, required a permit under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act. This law states that a permit is required for "any temporary fair, stage show or other such function or activity".

On Dec 23 last year, NEA replied to AHPETC's e-mail, saying it required a permit. It also sent the town council application forms for a "trade fair permit" and a "trade fair foodstall licence".

But the town council deemed the forms were "not suitable or relevant" as they were meant to be completed by the appointed fair operator. As it was organising the fair, there was no such "appointed operator". Ms Lim also said she understood a "trade fair" to mean what is colloquially known as "pasar malam" (night market).

Further, among the conditions for permits to be granted was a letter of approval from the Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC) of the area. Ms Lim noted that Hougang Central fell under the ambit of Bedok Reservoir-Punggol CCC, which is chaired by a People's Action Party grassroots leader.

She said: "Since my colleagues and I were elected to manage the town council under the Town Councils Act, we do not see how the town council should be required to get a supporting letter from the CCC for something held in the common area under our charge." She understood their duties under the Act to include management of the common areas under the charge of the town council.

As it deems the forms irrelevant, AHPETC asked NEA for the "relevant forms and advice".

NEA responded with the same set of forms and reiterated that AHPETC, as the event's organiser, had to apply for a permit.

Ms Lim testified: "We did not find the forms suitable, but we filled it in as per NEA's request." She also approved her colleague striking out "trade fair" on the forms and using "event" instead.

Earlier yesterday, the prosecution dismissed the AHPETC lawyer's argument that a "mini-fair" did not require a NEA permit. NEA lawyer Isaac Tan said: "(The law) makes no distinction between mini-fairs and what has been termed for the purposes of contrast as 'large fairs'. (It) only talks about temporary fairs with no reference to size."





About the case
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 16 Oct 2014

THE National Environment Agency (NEA) said the Chinese New Year event held by the Aljunied-Hougang- Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) contravened Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act.

The Workers' Party-run town council was not given a permit for the event because its application forms were incomplete.

The "temporary fair" or "trade fair", as classified by the NEA, was held at Hougang Central from Jan 9 to Jan 30.

AHPETC argues it was a "community event" or "mini-fair" and since the town council was organising the fair in a common area under its charge, it did not see the need for a permit.





Court battle over WP town council's CNY fair begins
NEA lawyers claim it was never given the permit to run 'temporary fair'
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 15 Oct 2014

A TRIAL involving the Workers' Party (WP) town council began yesterday, with the National Environment Agency (NEA) lawyers saying it was never given a permit to run a Chinese New Year fair in January.

Still, the Aljunied-Hougang- Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) went ahead with it in Hougang Central, a district court heard.

The event ran from Jan 9 to Jan 30, with five stalls, selling festive decorations, cookies and potted plants, among other things, between blocks 811 and 814.

This, the lawyers argued in their opening remarks, constituted a "temporary fair".

As such, it contravened Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act, which states a permit is necessary for "any temporary fair, stage show or other such function or activity".

But the AHPETC, whose chairman is Ms Sylvia Lim, is disputing NEA's argument. Its lawyer Peter Low pointed out that it was a "mini-fair" or an "event", and hence did not require a permit.

He also said he would seek clarification from the NEA on why it was necessary to get the Citizens Consultative Committee's (CCC) approval when applying for such a permit. The CCC in question was the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol CCC, which Mr Low told the court was chaired by a People's Action Party grassroots leader.

The case before District Judge Victor Yeo started from a letter the town council wrote to the NEA on Dec 20 last year, asking if a permit was required for the Chinese New Year (CNY) event.

The NEA said "yes" three days later, and e-mailed to the town council application forms for a "trade fair permit" and a "trade fair foodstall licence".

On Dec 24, AHPETC replied that the forms were "unsuitable", given that it was organising and operating the event by itself.

NEA reiterated that a permit was required and the town council submitted the forms. But it struck off the words "trade fair" and substituted them with "event". It also stated the event would be held from Jan 10 to Jan 30 as opposed to Jan 9 when it actually began.

On Jan 9, the NEA told the town council via e-mail that the application was incomplete and could not be processed.

The AHPETC did not respond to the e-mail, nor to a subsequent warning to stop the event.

NEA prosecutor Isaac Tan did not elaborate on the missing documents in the application.

Mr Tai Ji Choong, who is NEA's director of environmental health, told the court that a permit was required for temporary fairs so that "there would not be disamenities caused to the community". These include noise nuisance, pest infestation and food hygiene issues.

During cross-examination, Mr Low wanted Mr Tai to explain why it was necessary to get the CCC's approval as a condition for the permit.

The judge, however, agreed with Mr Tan's objection that the issue surrounding the conditions for a permit should not be argued in the present trial but at a judicial review.

Mr Tan also argued that the matter of not applying for a permit was one of "strict liability". Citing littering as an example, he said whether or not one intended to litter was immaterial.

He also said that since the AHPETC did not appeal against its rejected application, it should not use the court to find out why it was not given the permit.

Mr Low later showed the court a revised trade fair application form dated July 2008, which states "only grassroots organisations, town councils and charitable, civic, educational, religious or social institutions are allowed to hold fairs".

But the forms the AHPETC received last December did not have the words "town councils".

Mr Low asked when and why the change was made. Mr Tan objected, saying it was irrelevant as the issue before the court is whether the event needed a permit.

If found guilty, the town council can be fined up to $1,000 and, for subsequent convictions, a fine not exceeding $4,000 and/or a jail term of up to three months.

The trial continues today.





Sylvia Lim says funds for defence won't come from town council
By Joyce Lim, The Straits Times, 19 Feb 2014

ALJUNIED-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council is claiming trial to a court charge of holding a Chinese New Year fair without a licence.

Its chairman, Ms Sylvia Lim, turned up yesterday at the Subordinate Courts, where the council was accused of organising the fair between Jan 9 and 14 this year without first obtaining a permit from the National Environment Agency (NEA).



Accompanied by lawyers Peter Low and Terence Tan of Peter Low LLC, Ms Lim later told reporters outside court that the Workers' Party-run council intends "to mount a defence and seek justice".

"I would also like to clarify that the lawyers we have hired are from the same firm that I am associated with," she said.

"We will not be touching any town council funds to mount this defence. We will be raising funds from elsewhere. Neither me nor any Workers' Party (WP) members would have any share in any fees that are paid to the law firm."

Ms Lim does not draw a salary from the law firm but is associated with it through a "practising certificate".

She explained that the lawyers' fees will be raised "among ourselves" and said the council would look at offers from other people interested in supporting it.

The NEA issued a summons to the town council last month. A spokesman accused it of "blatantly" breaking the law and "wilfully" exposing its tenants to legal action. The NEA said it had sent the council repeated formal reminders not to operate the fair at Hougang Central Hub as town councils are not allowed to engage in commercial activities. These include the organisation and operation of fairs because they are not related to their statutory function of management and maintenance of common property.

Four stallholders at the fair were also served notices to attend court for hawking without a licence.

In an earlier statement, the council said it had "initiated communications with the NEA over its intention to run the event since Dec 20 last year, with the nature of the community fair and the benefit to residents clearly stated".

Mr Low believes it is the first time someone has claimed trial against an NEA charge.

A pre-trial conference will be held on April 2.

The NEA said: "It would not be appropriate to comment further on the matter at this time."

The agency took 15 operators to court for holding unlicensed fairs between 2011 and last month. Eleven were fined amounts up to $800, with the remaining four pending court mentions.






* WP town council to fight summons in court
By Hoe Pei Shan, The Straits Times, 19 Feb 2014

WORKERS' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim said the Aljunied- Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) "will present its case" in court as it fights a summons for holding an alleged illegal trade fair.

The trial will likely begin on June 2, added the town council's lawyer Terence Tan, after a pre-trial conference yesterday.

The fair, held in Hougang Central from Jan 9 in the lead-up to Chinese New Year, was into its third week when the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced it did not have a licence.

Six of the fair's stallholders were issued summonses for illegal hawking. Five of them received a single summons each, and have already paid composition fines of $300, said Mr Tan.

Ms Lim, who is also AHPETC chairman, said she understood why the residents decided to pay up after speaking to them, adding that "it is inconvenient for them to go to court".

The sixth stallholder, 63-year-old Goh Kwee Leng, received three summonses over three days at the fair, and was not offered a composition fine, said Mr Tan. He is being represented by the town council's lawyers in a separate case.

Mr Tan, who is assisting lead defence counsel Peter Low and will not be claiming legal fees as he is also a WP member, said they are seeking an offer of a composition fine or a withdrawal of the summonses for Mr Goh.

When asked why Mr Goh did not take AHPETC's cue in pursuing the matter in court, Mr Tan declined comment.

Referring to the town council, he said his clients "are seeking a just and equitable determination of this matter by this court".

Between 2011 and January this year, NEA had taken operators to court for running fairs without valid licences on 15 occasions - 11 of which resulted in fines of up to $800.

According to Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act, "no person shall promote, organise or stage any temporary fair... without first obtaining a permit from the Director-General (of Public Health)".

Anyone who contravenes any of the Act's provisions could, where no penalty is expressly provided, be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or a jail term not exceeding three months.





AHPETC hauled up to court for organising fair in Hougang without licence
By Joyce Lim, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2014

Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) is set to appear in court on Feb 18, for operating a Chinese New Year fair from Jan 9 to 30, without a licence.

The Workers' Party-run town council said in a statement on Thursday that it had received the summons from National Environment Agency (NEA).



The statement also said that the town council had "initiated communications with the over its intention to run the event since Dec 20 last year, with the nature of the community fair and the benefit to residents clearly stated".

Last month, a fair approved by AHPETC had to stop its operations because its organiser had failed to get a relevant licence from NEA.

"In addition to summons against the town council as the organiser of the fair, the NEA has also issued notices to attend court and to pay fines to residents and their family members assisting there on Jan 28, 29 and 30," said AHPETC.

"As the case against the (town council) is already fixed for court mention... it would not be appropriate to comment further on the matter at this time. The TC will present its case in court."





NEA acts against unlicensed trade fair in Hougang

By Joyce Lim, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2014

THE National Environment Agency (NEA) has acted against another unlicensed trade fair organised by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) earlier this month.

The agency has applied for a court summons against the council for the fair at Hougang Central Hub, as it had not obtained the licence required under the Environmental Public Health Act.

NEA added that four stallholders were also served with Notices to Attend Court for hawking without a licence.

An NEA spokesman told The Straits Times: "AHPETC has continued to blatantly break the law and wilfully exposed their tenants to legal action."

Stallholders said that after the festive fair started on Jan 9, NEA officers visited the site - which is in front of Hougang Mall - in the first and second week to issue warning letters to the town council.

Then on Tuesday night, officers from NEA visited again to issue more summonses.

"The NEA officers came at about 10pm on Tuesday and told me not to operate. I told him to let us operate till Jan 30, but he said we can't do so without a licence," said stallholder Goh Kwee Leng, 63.

"He then issued me a summons and said that if I did not pay the fine, I would have to attend court on Feb 18."

He added that AHPETC officers were present that night and told them they would help to settle the matter.

"So we handed the summonses to them and continued with the business... But NEA officers showed up again today and issued two more summonses to two workers."

Mr Goh said he and three workers were each issued a fine of $300.

This is not the first time AHPETC has run into trouble with NEA. Last month, a trade fair approved by AHPETC had to stop its operations because its organiser had failed to get a relevant licence from the agency.

NEA said that between 2011 and this month, it had taken operators to court for operating a fair without a valid licence on 15 occasions.

Eleven operators have since been fined amounts up to $800, with the remaining four pending court mentions. These fairs were located at Tampines, Toa Payoh, Simei, Clementi, Kovan City, Bukit Merah, Kampong Glam, Chinatown and Tanglin Halt.

There are currently 28 approved fairs in operation islandwide, three of which are located in the Aljunied/Hougang area.






Town council, PA in festive fair spat
By Joyce Lim, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2014

A SPAT has erupted between the Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and the People's Association (PA) over a Chinese New Year fair in the Kovan area.

The fair, organised by the Kovan Merchants' Association, is being held at a hard court beside Heartland Mall, on land leased by the Government to the PA.

AHPETC issued three notices to the PA, saying that the tentage and ropes for the fair protruded beyond the boundaries of the leased plot and therefore encroached on the council's common property.

This, it said, flouted a by-law which states that no one can "erect or install any fixture, structure or thing on any common property or in any open space except with the prior written permission of the Town Council".

But AHPETC vice-chairman Pritam Singh has said there were also safety issues at play.

The notices did not indicate any other details of how the offences were purportedly committed, but said that "a notice of composition or a summons to attend Court will be served on you in due course".

AHPETC's action has not gone down well with either the merchants' association or the PA, who claim that the problems were rectified immediately after an inspection by a town council officer on Jan 7.

The tentage for the fair was put up on Dec 31, even though the fair was to run from Jan 7 to 30.

"On the morning of Jan7, a town council officer inspected the site and told the merchants that the tentage had intruded 1m into the town council's property," said Mr Lee Bak Lee, 69, vice-chairman of the Paya Lebar Citizens' Consultative Committee, which comes under the PA.

"The rectification was done by about 2pm on the same day. I don't see why they would issue the notice when the problem was rectified immediately."

He said that the site, located within Aljunied GRC, is frequently used for community activities to promote bonding.

Aside from the tentage and the ropes, AHPETC also alleged that a dustbin placed outside of the tentage also encroached onto the town council's common property.

Mr Poon Cher Hock, 55, secretary of Kovan Merchants' Association, said that the town council officer had said the PA may face a charge of $1,000 a day for offences backdated to Dec31.

Last night, Mr Singh said there was no disagreement among the various parties that an encroachment had taken place.

On the issue of safety, he said: "The tentage anchor was anchored to the railing, and the concern on the town council side was that... it may not hold the tentage up and it should have been anchored to the ground."

He added that a notice of offence has been issued but the composition amount notice has not been issued and so the amount to be paid had not been fixed yet.

No comments:

Post a comment