The little trade fair that became a battleground

The little trade fair that became a battleground
Fair or not? Stallholders at the fair held in Kovan City scrambled to pack up last night as the NEA announced that it is taking the fair operator, Events Business Management, to court for holding an unlicensed event.

SINGAPORE - Stallholders at a fair in opposition-held Aljunied GRC scrambled to pack up last night as the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced it is taking the operator to court for holding an unlicensed event.

But the operator, Events Business Management (EBM), has argued that the event does not require a licence, and is claiming it is "caught" in a battle between the agency and Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), which appointed EBM to hold the fair.

The NEA has deemed EBM's event a "trade fair", which requires an NEA licence.

Despite repeated reminders, the company has been "unable to fulfil the licensing requirements", including not providing a letter of consensus from neighbourhood shopkeepers, the NEA said.

Now, the NEA is applying for a court summons against EBM. If found guilty, the events company can be fined up to $1,000.

Stallholders said they were told yesterday morning by the operator to clear out.

But EBM general manager Dennis Chew yesterday argued that the event is not a "trade fair" in the first place and, therefore, does not need a licence or a letter of consensus from the Kovan Merchants' Association.

He said his event had only 15 stalls, and insisted that the NEA has no clear definition on what is considered a trade fair.

Mr Chew, whose company has held fairs across the island, said: "We've been organising these kinds of events for 10 years and we've been law-abiding.

"You know how it's like over there. Now, I am caught in between."

He declined to say how much in losses he was making. The event was supposed to have lasted 69 days.

Earlier this week, AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim described the Kovan City fair as a "year-end festive event", and not a "trade fair".

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