WP couldn’t even organised a trade fair without breaking the law…

Overheard :

Organising a trade fair has its challenges but it isn’t rocket science. Many ordinary operators have done so successfully in AHPETC as well as in other town councils.

When you have lawyers among the WP MPs running AHPETC and it couldn’t even organised a trade fair without breaking the law, is it any wonder the Workers’ Party is screwing up in so many ways after the last GE?

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AHPETC found guilty of holding Chinese New Year fair without permit

source : AHPETC found guilty of holding Chinese New Year fair without permit

By POSTED: 28 Nov 2014

SINGAPORE: The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), run by the opposition Workers’ Party, was on Friday (Nov 28) found guilty of holding a festive trade fair, without a permit, earlier this year.

At the heart of the case was whether the town council flouted Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act, by holding a Chinese New Year fair without a permit. The National Environment Agency (NEA), prosecuting the case, said it did.

The town council, represented by lawyer Peter Low, challenged the charge. Among the defence was the argument that the event was simply a “mini-fair” which does not require a permit. It  also took issue with the need to get a letter of support to organise the fair, from the area’s Citizens’ Consultative Committee, which is chaired by a People’s Action Party grassroots leader.

In his oral judgement, which lasted for about two hours, District Judge Victor Yeo said he was satisfied that the prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt that the town council had flouted Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act.

The judge added that since Section 35 of the Act created a strict liability offence, this means the prosecution does not need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that AHPETC deliberately did not intend to obtain a permit to hold its fair.

The judge said that Section 18 of the Town Councils Act does not obviate the need for the town council to obtain a permit under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act. He said these are two separate legislations and it could not have been Parliament’s intention for town councils to be exempted from the licensing laws of the land.

As for the defence’s argument that AHPETC can hold events without a permit in common areas that it manages, the judge said it seems the town council’s objection was related to the suitability of the application form and not the fact that a permit was required. He said the court is not an appropriate forum to examine conditions tied to the permit application form.

The judge also ruled that the town council did not take reasonable care to try to do everything it could to obtain a permit.

He noted that in its correspondence with NEA, the town council made no mention that it believed the event did not require a permit. And despite not having obtained one, it decided to stop corresponding with NEA and instead proceeded with the fair one day earlier. When NEA sent further warnings, the town council remained silent and the fair ran its full course of three weeks.

Mr Yeo said the true objection of the town council appeared to be conditions stated in the application form, and not that a permit was required.

REACTIONS FROM TOWN COUNCIL, NEA

Commenting on the decision, AHPETC’s vice chairman, Mr Pritam Singh, said: “We are disappointed with the verdict. We will take advice from our lawyers as to the next course of action going forward. We won’t rule anything out.”

He added that no town council funds were used with respect to this case, saying: “The MPs are contributing to the lawyers’ fees.”

In response to the verdict, NEA said that during the trial, AHPETC had sought to “disingenuously portray its deliberate flouting of the law as an attempt to obtain guidance from the court”, and chose to “deliberately and persistently breach” the Environmental Public Health Act.

NEA said it wants to remind all operators of temporary fairs to apply for and obtain a permit from it before commencing the events.

“NEA requires temporary fair operators to have a licence to ensure that public health concerns and disamenities arising from temporary fairs such as food hygiene, waste management and noise nuisance are addressed,” the agency said in a statement. It added that it will not hesitate to take errant operators of unlicensed fairs to task.

NEA said there have been 16 instances of enforcement action between 2011 and Oct 31, 2014. Organisers penalised had run fairs in places such as Tampines, Toa Payoh, Simei, Clementi, Kovan City, Bukit Merah, Kampong Glam, Chinatown, Serangoon North, Rivervale Walk and Tanglin Halt.  

Meanwhile, the court has been adjourned to Dec 24 for mitigation and sentencing. Defence lawyer Peter Low said he needed to consult with the town council’s chairman, Ms Sylvia Lim, who is currently out of town. The town council faces a fine of up to S$1,000.

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