Town council had no permit for CNY fair, says prosecution

Town council had no permit for CNY fair, says prosecution
From left to right: Mr Peter Low and Ms Sylvia Lim.

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council was not given a permit to run a Chinese New Year (CNY) fair in Hougang Central in January, a district court heard yesterday.

In its opening remarks, the prosecution argued that the fair - which featured five stalls selling festive decorations, cookies and sweets, fruits such as pomelo, flowers and assorted potted plants - amounted to a "temporary fair", so a licence was required under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA).

Defence lawyer Peter Low, in turn, said the town council will dispute the allegation that the event was a "temporary fair", and will seek a clarification on when and under what circumstances the National Environment Agency (NEA) will grant a permit.

According to the statement of facts to which both sides have agreed, the town council - which had organised and operated the event - had written to NEA on Dec 20 last year asking if a permit was required, and if so, for a copy of the relevant application forms to be forwarded.

NEA replied that a permit was required and sent the forms to the town council.

When submitting its application, the town council struck off the words "Trade Fair" from the forms titled "Application for Trade Fair Permit" and "Application for Trade Fair Foodstall Licence", and substituted them with the word "Event".

It also stated that its event would be held from Jan 10 to Jan 30, as opposed to Jan 9 when it actually began.

By Jan 9, the NEA informed the town council that its application was still incomplete and could not be processed. It then warned the town council to stop operations until a permit was obtained. The town council did not respond to the warning and carried on with the fair.

NEA prosecutor Isaac Tan did not go into details about the missing documents for the application.

The first prosecution witness, Tai Ji Choong, who is NEA's director of the Environmental Health Department, said the town council event constituted a breach of Section 35 of the EPHA. The requirement for a permit for these temporary events is that "there would not be disamenities caused to the community, including shopkeepers operating in that community", he added.

He said the disamenities include noise nuisance, pest infestation, food hygiene issues and disruption to pedestrian flow.

If found guilty, the town council - represented in court by its chairman, Sylvia Lim - can be fined up to $1,000 and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, up to a fine not exceeding $4,000 and/or a jail term not exceeding three months.

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