The 26 mediators selected to resolve disputes between neighbours in a state court tribunal have each mediated at least 100 cases, with a settlement rate of about 70 per cent.
Speaking at their appointment ceremony at the Community Mediation Centre (CMC), Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah said the mediators have the "requisite experience and skills to mediate these difficult disputes and guide the parties to reach amicable resolutions".
The mediators will handle cases ordered by the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals, which will hear difficult disputes between neighbours. The judges at the tribunals may, for instance, order neighbours to go for compulsory mediation sessions.
It is now not compulsory for parties to attend such community mediation, with the result that about six in 10 people do not show up.
It is hoped the strengthening of the mediation centre will change that, with Ms Indranee emphasising that the court tribunals "are intended to be a place of last resort".
"Parties should only commence a claim in the tribunals after all other efforts to resolve the conflict, including mediation, have failed," she said.
Principal master mediator - the highest title accorded by the CMC to its panel of mediators - Lim Lan Yuan, 66, said the tribunals "are an additional avenue for disputants to seek resolutions for conflicts".
Dr Lim, a retired university professor who became a mediator in 1989, said: "It can be tough if one party (approaches the CMC), but the other party does not come for mediation. In such cases, we will not be able to mediate."
Yesterday, Ms Indranee also presented awards to 27 volunteer mediators to recognise their contributions to the CMC. Among them was 39-year-old Ma Keow Yuen, who runs a handmade sweets business.
He was one of two to receive the Outstanding Newcomer award for mediating the most number of cases in his first three years of service.
Mr Ma, who has handled more than 20 disputes, said: "If both parties come with the intention to reconcile, the issue can be settled very quickly, sometimes even within 20 minutes."