Budget 2014: Changes to law to deal with community disputes being studied

Budget 2014: Changes to law to deal with community disputes being studied
File photo of Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.

SINGAPORE - The police may get more teeth to deal with public nuisances in the neighbourhood, with the Government looking into legislative changes to deal with the issue.


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Excerpt from Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong's speech:

"Several Members spoke about this, of some of these very difficult cases and "deadlocked disputes". I share their concerns, and that's why we had earlier set up an inter-agency team involving my Ministry, together with MinLaw, MHA, MND, and the team has proposed several measures to strengthen our framework for the management of community disputes.

"A key part of the framework is a Community Dispute Resolution Tribunal to adjudicate difficult cases between neighbours. The Tribunal will have the powers to mandate mediation, to give parties the chance to communicate and compromise. The Tribunal can also make judgements and issue orders which will have to be complied with, failing which there will be consequences including prosecution. So the Tribunal will provide legal recourse for difficult cases, and especially for aggrieved parties. But I must qualify that the Tribunal should neither be the first recourse nor the main way we resolve our disputes. This would be counter-productive. We want to promote community ownership and collective responsibility, and mediation should remain the first priority. I think Ms Irene Ng agreed to that and several Members as well. So we do want the Tribunal to be there but it should be there as a last resort, for the difficult cases.

"For the Tribunal to work well, we will require better frontline responses to community disputes, and more effective enforcement capabilities.

"These are complex implementation issues, which the relevant agencies are working through, and we will build these capabilities progressively, starting with a few estates, learning from the experience, and then scaling up over time.

"I think Mr Vikram Nair also asked about clear rules and penalties. As I mentioned earlier, our key thrust is on public education and mediation but we recognise that there are cases which do require rules and penalties and so we are also looking at legislative amendments such as to the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act to allow the Police to take enforcement action if needed.

"Ms Irene Ng highlighted that some of the more difficult dispute cases may involve persons with mental health issues, and that we need to find different ways to tackle such cases. I agree with her and we are looking into this as part of the framework for the management of community disputes. But I would say that this is in fact a broader issue that requires further study into our mental health provisions, especially in the community. And again, here, the relevant agencies are looking into this namely, MOH and MSF."

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