Feud with neighbours? New tribunal may help

SINGAPORE - Resolution may soon be in sight for feuding neighbours.

By the year end, neighbours deadlocked in a dispute will be able to turn to a new Community Dispute Resolution Tribunal for help.

Currently, those looking to resolve disputes can either seek help from grassroots leaders or go to two Community Mediation Centres (CMCs).

But these centres merely offer a place for the airing of grievances in the presence of a volunteer mediator. The CMCs are unable to issue orders and the parties involved can simply not show up.

The new tribunal will have powers to mandate mediation. A judge will also be at hand to issue orders, such as to stop playing loud music after 11pm. If the parties involved fail to follow such orders they can face prosecution, including fines.

But the tribunal is meant only as "a last resort, for the difficult cases", said Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong in Parliament yesterday.

He added that mediation at the grassroots level still has its place in communities "as both parties agree on a solution, so there is ownership and responsibility to follow through".

"There are also several difficult and longstanding cases that are initially resolved through mediation, but later flare up again," he said, adding that the number of mediators at the CMCs will be increased. Grassroots leaders will also be sent for more mediation training.

Of the 521 cases that were heard last year, 70 per cent were resolved successfully, said Mr Wong. However, out of the estimated 1,500 applications that the CMCs receive annually, about 60 per cent of the cases end up with one party not showing up.

Common disputes between neighbours include dripping laundry, rowdy pets, the use of common areas and noise. Noise complaints are the top gripe, with over 70,000 complaints received annually by the authorities, including the HDB and the police.

Better frontline responses and more efficient enforcement capabilities will also be implemented to ensure that the tribunal is the last resort that residents turn to.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth is holding a public consultation on ways to encourage considerate behaviour and resolve community disputes.

Members of the public can e-mail their feedback to community_dispute@mccy.gov.sg by April 21.


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