WP town council claims trial over unlicensed fair

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 on Tueday 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.


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