Abrupt end to Kovan City year-end fair; Organiser told to appear in court

Stall owners at the Kovan City fair packing up after organiser EBM said it was cancelling the event. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Stall owners at the Kovan City fair packing up after organiser EBM said it was cancelling the event. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Organiser told to appear in court after operating without a licence

The year-end fair at Kovan City in Aljunied GRC came to an abrupt end yesterday, with its organiser set to appear in court for operating without a licence.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said last night it had applied for a summons against Events Business Management (EBM) on Monday.

"The operator will be required to attend court in due course," it added in a statement.

Earlier in the day, stunned and confused stallholders, told by EBM to pack up and close shop, swiftly put up "last day sale" signs as they counted their losses.

The fair, with 15 stalls selling merchandise such as bags and clothes, started on Nov 22 and was to have gone on for 70 days until Chinese New Year next year.

But it failed to get a licence as it did not submit a letter of consensus from the neighbourhood merchants' association, as required under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act.

The Act states that no one "shall promote, organise or stage any temporary fair, stage show or other such functions or activity without first obtaining a permit from the director-general".

An NEA spokesman said: "Consequently, the trade fair at Kovan City requires a licence, regardless of how the organiser or operator describes it."

If convicted, EBM can be fined up to $1,000.

The NEA also disclosed it was not the first time EBM had flouted the rule. It was fined in May last year for a similar offence.

NEA said that as a trade fair, the event required a letter of consensus from the Kovan Merchants' Association in order to get a licence.

But EBM and the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), which oversees the area where the fair was held, had argued that the event was a year-end festivity, not a trade fair. AHPETC vice-chairman Png Eng Huat said yesterday he hoped "things will turn out well, especially since it's the festive season".

Mr Png is the Workers' Party MP for Hougang. WP chief Low Thia Khiang declined to comment, saying queries should be directed to the town council.

EBM general manager Dennis Chew - who received two reminders from the NEA - said yesterday he will continue to seek NEA's approval so that the fair can resume.

He added: "My company is law-abiding. If NEA insists this is a trade fair, I will stop my event as of today. But I will apply again for clearance."

Asked later about his impending court appearance, he reiterated his position that he is not organising a trade fair and that he hoped to eventually get approval.

Many Kovan stall owners at the fair were dismayed on hearing news of the shutdown.

Said shoe stall owner Andrew Chuan, 46: "I'm angry. It's been only a few days and we haven't even made a profit. We're paying a daily rental of $450 and with the rain, sales have not been good."

chanckr@sph.com.sg

maryamm@sph.com.sg