NEA: ‘No’ Especially (to) Aljunied?

I am a resident in Aljunied Town Council (ATC).

I was quite amused by the news report “Workers’ Party town council never granted permit to run Chinese New Year fair, court told” (Straits Times, Oct 14).

Need permit?

It states that “Defence lawyer Peter Low, in turn, said the town council will dispute the allegation that the event was a ‘temporary fair’, and will seek a clarification on when and under what circumstances the National Environment Agency (NEA) will grant a permit.

According to the statement of facts to which both sides have agreed, the town council — which had organised and operated the event — had written to the NEA on Dec 20 last year asking if a permit was required, and if so, for a copy of relevant application forms to be forwarded.

The NEA replied that a permit was required, and sent the forms to the town council.

The town council, when submitting its application, struck off the words ‘Trade Fair’ from the forms titled “Application for Trade Fair Permit” and “Application for Trade Fair Foodstall Licence”, and substituted them with the word ‘Event’.

It also stated its event would be held from January 10 to January 30, as opposed to January 9 when it actually began.

Incomplete application?

By January 9, the NEA informed the town council its application was still incomplete and could not be processed. It then warned the town council to stop operations until a permit was obtained. The town council did not respond to the warning and carried on with the fair.

What’s missing?

NEA prosecutor Isaac Tan did not go into details about the missing documents for the application.”

Innocent stallholders?

– Imagine you are one of the stallholders who were fined by the NEA.

Clearly, these stallholders were innocent third parties caught in the crossfire.

Administrative law?

This incident highlights the issue that “administrative law” practically does not exist in Singapore – thus allowing Government agencies to act with impunity in making nonsensical, illogical, unfair and unjust decisions such as the subject one.

We never consider the principles of natural justice, fairness and equity in administrative decisions.

Don’t you find it rather strange that the prosecution was unable to throw any light on what are the missing documents or information which made ATC’s application incomplete?

So, was the technicality of “incomplete application” just an excuse to make life difficult for ATC, and by extension to residents like me?

Instead of assisting a town council to hold a fair for the residents during the festive period – it “deliberately” (isn’t it rather obvious?) placed an obstacle to obstruct it.

In the history of Singapore, has any other town council been subject to such a case?

If ATC’s striking off the words “trade fair” and replacing it by writing “an event” was deemed by NEA to be so crucial that it could not even consider the application and make a decision as to whether to approve or reject it – why did it not inform ATC.

Such that as it turned out – the fair proceeded as an illegal event that is now wasting taxpayers money and resources to prosecute ATC.

Making a montain out of a mole hill?

How ungraceful can a Government agency be in “making such a big deal” over such a small matter?

Residents have to pay?

And I suppose the residents may have to foot the legal bill as well!

Leong Sze Hian

P.S. Come with your family and friends to the 5th Return Our CPF protest on 25 October 4 pm at Speakers’ Corner

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.