New tribunals give teeth to mediation process

HDB flats in Bedok estate.
HDB flats in Bedok estate.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

That disputes do arise between neighbours is a given, because we are social creatures with our own idiosyncrasies. 

It is, therefore, imperative that we figure out how to amicably resolve disputes in order to live peaceably with one another.

Voluntary mediation is one effective way to resolve differences. 

When disputing parties do show up, there is a successful resolution rate of 75 per cent.

But as long as it is voluntary, there will always be many who will not participate.

In fact, only 40 per cent choose to attend these sessions despite its high rate of success. 

Voluntary mediation is one effective way to resolve differences. When disputing parties do show up, there is a successful resolution rate of 75 per cent. But as long as it is voluntary, there will always be many who will not participate.

At 60 per cent no-show, many disputants clearly do not take the mediation process seriously enough.

The Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals will add necessary teeth to the mediation process ("Recalcitrant neighbours can be taken to court"; Oct 1).  

For one thing, they can make it mandatory for disputing neighbours to go for mediation.

That should compel disputants to take the mediation process seriously.

In fact, the tribunals can order that all further proceedings in the action be stayed until the plaintiff and the respondent have attended the mediation or counselling (as the case may be).

This is a very significant point to note, because the setting up of the tribunals is intended to be the solution of last resort. 

It is not meant to circumvent mediation.

Having neighbours meet to resolve their differences must always remain the first and best option. 

Even as we are neighbours by chance, we can choose to be friends. 

And if we are friends, we should be able to talk to one another about what is bothering us in a calm, civil and respectful manner; as friendly neighbours, and not as enemies.

The need to go to the tribunals should be considered only when attempts to get the parties together for mediation fail and there is no other way to compel the parties to get together other than to apply to the tribunals.  

William Wan (Dr)

General Secretary

Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2015, with the headline 'New tribunals give teeth to mediation process'. Print Edition | Subscribe