He takes pride in resolving disputes

He takes pride in resolving disputes
Mr Gerald Singham, a pioneer in the field of mediation in Singapore, has been mediating for the last 17 years. He likens the concept of mediation to how villagers would get their village head to resolve disputes in the past.

In high-rise Singapore, dripping laundry is a common grouse among neighbours.

But when a person's soaking wet clothes drizzle on attire that is important to his neighbour, such seemingly trivial matters can escalate rapidly into intractable misunderstandings.

In one instance, an enraged man spewed a barrage of heated words and accusations across the table at his neighbour who lived upstairs at a mediation session led by community mediator Gerald Singham a few years ago.

The man felt that his neighbour was being insensitive and disrespectful, but it was an honest mistake by the neighbour, Mr Singham said.

After a few sessions, he was able to help both parties understand this and come to an agreement.

The neighbour who lived upstairs agreed to squeeze his laundry thoroughly before hanging it out. If it should still drip, the neighbour who lived below would inform him about this so that he would be able to rectify it.

This episode in 2012 cemented Mr Singham's belief in the pivotal role that mediation should play in resolving community disputes.

The 52-year-old partner at law firm Rodyk & Davidson has been playing peacemaker for the last 17 years, doing his best to prevent tiffs between neighbours from ending up in court.

"If that case went to court, either party may end up feeling hurt or prejudiced against," the corporate lawyer said. "Mediation has a better chance of being a remedy because community issues are often relational in nature."

The pioneer was among the country's first few mediators who volunteered when the first mediation centre was set up at the then Marine Parade Community Development Council (CDC) when the Community Mediation Centres Act was passed in 1997.

Although mediation was still an unfamiliar concept to many at that time, Mr Singham - then a secretary at Marine Parade CDC - had already been mulling over the idea of introducing an avenue that warring neighbours can turn to in his district, the way villagers would get their village head to preside over disputes in the past.

The landscape of mediation has evolved further since then.

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