Community mediators lauded at appreciation ceremony

From quarrelsome neighbours, estranged family members to ex-lovers being harassed - volunteer mediator Francis Lim has seen it all.

The 65-year old, who helps out at the Community Mediation Centre (CMC), said his work has allowed him to witness the dark side of human behaviour.

"It gets ugly sometimes, and parties do bring up illogical points," he said.

But he loves helping people and this passion has seen him volunteering with the CMC - a department under the Ministry of Law - for the past 15 years since its inception in 1998.

For his contributions, he received a 15th Year Appreciation Award on Tuesday at the CMC's Mediators' Appointment Ceremony and Appreciation Dinner, which was held in conjunction with the Centre's 15th Year Anniversary Celebrations.

Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah was the guest-of-honour of the event held at the Conrad Centennial Hotel.

In her opening address, Ms Indranee acknowledged the work of volunteer mediators like Mr Lim, who "have been and will always be a core part of our efforts".

She said the CMC now has more than 140 volunteers - including six newcomers who joined in August - up from less than 30 when CMC first started.

In future, a Community Dispute Resolution Tribunal will be set up. The CMC will be "an integral part" of these new plans, she said.

Ms Indranee also spoke of the need for the mediators to undergo continuous training in order to keep their knowledge and skills relevant.

One option they have is to pursue a Certificate in Law for Community Mediators. A collaboration between the CMC and Temasek Polytechnic, the programme is partially sponsored by the Ministry of Law.

"The mediators will pick up legal knowledge that will complement their existing mediation know-how when handling social and community disputes," said Ms Indranee.

Six community mediators started on this programme last month, the oldest of whom is Mr Lim.

The semi-retired managing director of a steel trading company said his family members are supportive of his efforts to upgrade his skills.

In his time with the Centre, he has mediated more than 140 cases, of which about 70 per cent of the cases were settled.

Mr Lim said the root cause for many of the disputes he has handled was a lack of communication, which often led to mutual suspicion and misunderstandings.

Hence, he tries to get the parties to speak with one another when they come together at a mediation session.

As a mediator, Mr Lim said it is important for him to clearly identify the issues at the heart of a dispute and to keep his emotions in check.

"I have to remember that I am a neutral party. So no matter how I feel about what is being said, I cannot show it," he said.