Neighbours embroiled in long-standing disputes may soon be able to resolve their differences with the help of the new Community Dispute Resolution Tribunal.
The only form of help available to neighbours seeking to resolve their disputes now come from grassroots leaders or Community Mediation Centres (CMCs).
But they are limited to offering an avenue to air grievances as CMCs cannot issue orders. Parties can even choose not to show up.
The proposed tribunal will have more teeth. It will act as a referee handling difficult disputes, giving more bite to the current system - "a last resort for the difficult cases", Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said in Parliament.
The tribunal will likely be set up in the second half of the year, and will wield the power to compel warring neighbours to go for mediation, make judgments, and issue orders that parties have to obey. Failure to comply with orders issued by the tribunal can lead to prosecution.
Mr Richard, who is deadlocked in a dispute with his neighbour over potted plants and damage to his CCTV cameras, was initially invited to go for a mediation session at the CMC.
He declined because he felt that the CMC was powerless to resolve the case.
With new powers to dish out punitive measures, the tribunal could be more effective, he said.
But he said it may turn out to be just a stop-gap measure, as there is no guarantee his neighbour would not cause trouble again.
"Right now, I'm a victim of not just a dispute but of vandalism, which is a criminal act. I don't think the tribunal has the power to resolve that."
Get The New Paper for more stories.