It was a fairly straight forward case that could be summed up like this:
- Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) did not get a permit by the NEA to run their trade show (ST: Worker’s Party town council never granted permit to run CNY fair, court told)
- AHPETC goes ahead and organises the trade fair anyway (CNA: Hougang fair went ahead as AHPETC did not agree with NEA’s actions: Sylvia Lim)
- AHPETC gets charged by NEA for running a trade fair without a permit under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act
AHPETC had a choice – to pay a small composition, or to take trial. They chose trial.
Let’s look at it this way – the Worker’s Party had already won. They’ve gained hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of media air-time, and for what price? A maximum of $5k in court fines. (Apparently the lawyer works for free cause he’s also a Worker’s Party member)
If they had settled privately with the NEA, the composition would only have been a thousand dollars or two, but it wouldn’t have been headline material. It wouldn’t have gained the maximum amount of airtime it had enjoyed across social media, radio, TV and intensive discussions both on and offline. (Come to think of it, if the NEA hadn’t pursued the case, it wouldn’t have resulted in any airtime at all…. it would have been just another trade fair… hmmm #conspiriacy)
It reminds me of those ignited sparklers in champagne bottles served in some posh dance clubs. An owner once told me that this had been banned and made illegal by the Civil Defence. The fine would be several thousand dollars each time they’re caught. However, if the club had adhered to the law they’d be losing out on tens of thousands of dollars in profit. Per night. So they’re happy paying the composition fines.
At the end of the day, it is a mere economic choice – which one gives you better leverage. And the NEA took it all in – hook, line and sinker.
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