CNY fair dispute: Opposition town council 'not picking fight'

Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) chairman Sylvia Lim said yesterday it was not picking a fight or engaging in a tit-for-tat exchange with the People's Association (PA) and merchants' association in a dispute over a Chinese New Year
Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) chairman Sylvia Lim said yesterday it was not picking a fight or engaging in a tit-for-tat exchange with the People's Association (PA) and merchants' association in a dispute over a Chinese New Year fair. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) chairman Sylvia Lim said yesterday it was not picking a fight or engaging in a tit-for-tat exchange with the People's Association (PA) and merchants' association in a dispute over a Chinese New Year fair.

Responding to comments online and in media reports since news of the spat broke last week, she said: "Some people may want to characterise it as a tit-for-tat, but it's not."

The issue arose after the Workers' Party-run (WP) town council issued three notices for a fair organised by the Kovan Merchants' Association on land leased by the Government to the PA.

The notices said that the tentage and ropes for the fair protruded beyond the boundaries of the leased plot, encroaching on common property and flouting a by-law of the town council.

AHPETC has cited safety concerns to do with tentage being anchored to a railing instead of to the ground. But the merchants' association and PA grassroots leaders say the issues, which allegedly also involve a dustbin encroaching onto the council's common property, were rectified on the day AHPETC notified the merchants.

In her first comments on the issue yesterday, Ms Lim, who is also the WP chairman, reiterated the council's responsibility to residents and the public to look out for safety concerns.

As the town council is answerable for the management and maintenance of common areas as defined by the Town Councils Act, it will be held liable for anything that happens there, including obstruction and safety risks, she said.

AHPETC has issued a notice of offence to the merchant's association, but has not told it how much the fine will be, said Ms Lim. "We are looking at the circumstances and what will be fair."

She stressed there was no link between AHPETC's enforcement in Kovan and the National Environment Agency's (NEA) summons to the town council for holding a Chinese New Year fair in Hougang Central without a licence last month.

Ms Lim declined to comment on the latter case as AHPETC is due to appear in court on Feb 18.

On the spats involving AHPETC and government bodies like NEA and PA since the WP won Aljunied GRC in 2011, Ms Lim said the town council strives to have a professional working relationship with government departments for residents' benefit.

Despite "some hiccups along the way", AHPETC has had "good relationships" with many government departments, even some under NEA, Ms Lim said.

She herself has had very good experiences with the Land Transport Authority and police, for instance. "I don't think it's fair to say that we go along picking fights with people."

andreao@sph.com.sg

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