Frontline officers in government agencies are being taught to use basic mediation techniques to defuse disputes when they encounter angry members of the public.
Training began in May last year and is conducted by an expert from the Community Mediation Centre (CMC), which provides mediation services for the public. So far, more than 300 officers from agencies such as the Housing Board and Singapore Police Force have been trained.
In a speech yesterday at a CMC appreciation dinner, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong said: "This has been helpful for frontline officers who deal with a multitude of such cases from local residents... They help to resolve conflicts, and nip it in the bud before it escalates into something more serious." The CMC, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, also held a ceremony yesterday to appoint mediators. The centre has 153 volunteer mediators who deal with about 500 disputes every year.
Mediators successfully resolve, on average, about 75 per cent of these disputes. Most of them are between neighbours over such issues as noise, abusive language or harassment, the CMC said.
The CMC is recognised as a Qualifying Assessment Programme (QAP) by the Singapore International Mediation Institute, which means the service it provides meets international standards, said Mr Tong.
He added: "The recognition of the CMC as QAP gives recognition to the quality of the CMC's services and also the skills and standards of our mediators."
Volunteer mediator Krishna Veerappen, 82, said the QAP is also an affirmation of the centre's good work.
The centre, he added, has played an important role in helping to bring communities together by getting different parties to work out their differences and understand each other better. He said: "We're being recognised for it now, which is a very good sign."