Mediation can lead to stronger neighbourly ties: MinLaw

A single mother struggling to raise her two young children was unaware that the noise her children made was disturbing the family next door.

Whenever Madam Lim's neighbour, Mr Gopal, walked past her flat, he would complain in loud tones about the noise from her children and the dragging of furniture in her flat. The two neighbours would end up shouting at each other.

Their real names have not been used to protect their identities. Their dispute was eventually resolved with the help of a mediator at the Community Mediation Centre (CMC), set up in 1998 by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) to resolve conflicts in the community. The mediator had helped them to see each other's point of view.

During the mediation, Madam Lim cried as she spoke about her struggles in raising her children as a single parent working full-time. Mr Gopal, who also has two young children, became sympathetic and suggested that their children play together at his flat to give her a break, while Madam Lim said she would put rubber protectors under the tables and chairs in the flat, and a foam carpet in her children's room to minimise the noise.

Their case is an example of how mediation can lead to stronger and more harmonious relationships between neighbours, said MinLaw.

More than 80 per cent of disputes between neighbours that were mediated at the CMC between 2017 and last year were resolved amicably, said MinLaw and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in a joint reply to The Sunday Times. More than 100 cases involving neighbour disputes over noise were handled by CMC annually from 2016 to last year.

An individual can directly apply to the CMC for mediation or the cases can be referred by government agencies or voluntary welfare organisations.

Ms Lela Kaur, 61, a master mediator with 21 years of experience, said the majority of the disputes she has handled were noise-related and often the noise was created unintentionally.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 12, 2020, with the headline 'Mediation can lead to stronger neighbourly ties: MinLaw'. Print Edition | Subscribe