SINGAPORE – The Workers’ Party’s town council was fined $800 on Wednesday after it was found guilty last month of breaking the law by holding a Chinese New Year fair without a permit.

District Judge Victor Yeo said in his judgment last month that the event from Jan 9 to Jan 30 at Hougang Central was a “temporary fair” which required a permit under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA).

All trade fair operators must get a permit from the National Environment Agency (NEA) to ensure that they can meet concerns over issues like food hygiene, safety and noise control.

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Counci (AHPETC), which rejected an offer by the NEA of a composition fine in lieu of prosecution, could have been fined up to $1,000. Under new laws, The maximum penalty has since been raised to $10,000.

Judge Yeo said last month that he found it “exceedingly puzzling” that AHPETC did not raise any objections to the requirement of a permit before the fair was conducted.

Instead, the town council submitted an application form by replacing the words “trade fair” with “event”, and not attaching all the necessary supporting documents.

Noting testimony by town council chairman Sylvia Lim, who said that they would have submitted the form in full if it was deemed suitable, Judge Yeo said: “The true objection in my view appeared to be the conditions stated in the application form, and not that a permit was required per se.”

He added: “To now vigorously mount a challenge that there was no requirement for the town council to apply for a permit is simply unconvincing to say the least, or a mere afterthought at worse.”

AHPETC had also cited Section 18 of the Town Councils Act to claim that a permit was not needed as the event was held in a common area under their charge.

The section says a town council is to “control, manage, maintain and improve the common property of residential and commercial property in the housing estates”.

But Judge Yeo found the argument “wholly misconceived and untenable”, agreeing with the prosecution that the Town Councils Act does not “give (a town council) carte blanche to do whatever it chooses within its precinct without any regard to the requirements of the prevailing laws and regulations”.

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