Trade fair turns into a battleground
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
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".
She had said: "I would prefer to use that term (rather than trade fair), because the events were supposed to cover...performances that are festive-related to draw crowds to the area, besides the festive bazaar.
"It is not what we typically know of as trade fairs, (with) people selling food and all that."
The town council wrote to NEA this week to clarify this issue.
But the NEA yesterday noted that the Environmental Public Health Act states that "no person shall promote, organise or stage any temporary fair, stage show or other such functions or activity" without first obtaining a permit.
An NEA spokesman said: "Consequently, the trade fair at Kovan City requires a licence, regardless of how the organiser or operator describes it," and added that this was not the first time EBM has been fined.
EBM was penalised last May, also for holding a trade fair without a licence.
Others have also been fined. Between 2011 and last month, there were 11 cases where NEA took legal action against operators who held a fair without a valid licence.
These fairs were located islandwide, including in Tampines, Toa Payoh and Bukit Merah. Eight operators have since been fined up to $800 each.
Meanwhile, the Kovan Merchants' Association remains puzzled about the turn of events.
Chairman Ng Cher Po said they have never issued a letter of consensus to event organisers in the past three years, despite the fact that numerous fairs have been held in Kovan City.
Mr Ng said in Mandarin: "It's always been very peaceful here. I don't know why this happened."
AHPETC's vice-chairman, Mr Png Eng Huat, said: "We don't have any additional information to give, but we hope things will turn out well, especially since it's the festive season."