Forum: New process needed to tackle neighbour disputes quickly

HDB flats in Toa Payoh seen in a photo taken on Dec 12, 2019.
HDB flats in Toa Payoh seen in a photo taken on Dec 12, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

There should be a better way to resolve neighbours' troubles than the present remedy of resorting to lengthy and complicated court actions.

I agree with Forum contributors Daniel Tan Jia Hao and Chan Yong Shin (Disappointed that hands appear tied in dealing with noisy neighbours, Speed up ways to tackle difficult neighbours, both on Jan 11) on this.

The majority of Singaporeans live in close proximity to one another, whether in public or private housing - between adjacent apartment dwellers or even detached houses with gardens.

When humans live in close proximity, differences in opinion and behaviour are bound to occur.

Often, disagreements start off as something trivial and, because they are not resolved quickly, escalate to unnecessarily protracted lawsuits with unsatisfactory results.

I would like to suggest that there be a simple and more effective way to nip problems like this in the bud. The present system is clearly not effective.

It is important to set up a more effective process because it will not only prevent future problems, but will also make it more pleasant for the majority of Singaporeans to live in harmony.

Perhaps the Members of Parliament should form a committee with the power to settle such disputes and arbitrate before turning them into legal issues.

The procedure should be simple. The parties should be allowed to bring it up with their MP in meet-the-people sessions and the MP should immediately refer them to this committee of neighbours for arbitration and settlement. The method has to be swift, fair and effective.

This will prevent the escalation of disputes into nasty feuds between neighbours.

This problem is widespread and is calling out for attention.

The sooner we can solve this problem, the better for all Singaporeans who only wish to live in peace in the comfort of their own home.

George Wong Seow Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2020, with the headline 'New process needed to tackle neighbour disputes quickly'. Print Edition | Subscribe