“Community disputes that are brought to the Courts are handled by the State Courts’ Community Justice and Tribunals Division (CJTD), which adopts a nuanced and holistic approach in managing Protection from Harassment (POHA) and Community Disputes Resolution Act (CDRA) cases in order to assist disputants to resolve their disputes thoroughly and effectively. This is done in close collaboration with its stakeholders comprising government agencies and community partners.”
Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon Presiding Judge of the State Courts 23 September 2016
1 The State Courts organised their first seminar on “Resolving Community Disputes” on 23 September 2016 to bring together stakeholders within the Government and the community who are actively involved in one way or another in managing and resolving community disputes.
2 Community disputes relate to matters covered under the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 (POHA) and the Community Disputes Resolution Act 2015 (CDRA) which took effect on 15 November 2014 and 1 October 2015 respectively. While disputes within the community may seem minor at first blush, in reality, they may cause the disputants significant distress as the issues are deeply personal and frequently longstanding, and affect their day-to-day living and peace of mind. Both pieces of legislation were introduced to strengthen Singapore’s social cohesion and diffuse tension within the community.
3 Community disputes that are brought to the Courts are handled by the State Courts’ Community Justice and Tribunals Division (CJTD), which adopts a nuanced and holistic approach in managing POHA and CDRA cases in order to assist disputants to resolve their disputes thoroughly and effectively. This is done in close collaboration with its stakeholders comprising government agencies and community partners.
4 The Seminar, in bringing together the stakeholders, seeks to:
(a) Build bridges for the stakeholders by providing them with a platform to interact and establish the foundation for collaboration and greater synergy.
(b) Reflect and vision, i.e. review the current strategies in resolving community disputes, with a view to building a shared vision for the future.
(c) Deepen the knowledge of the stakeholders in areas that are relevant to their roles in community disputes resolution. The topics covered in the Seminar include appreciation for the religious beliefs and practices of the main religious groups in Singapore, how psychiatry, psychotherapy and counselling feature in disputes and dispute resolution, etc.
5 The inaugural Seminar was attended by about 300 participants from government agencies such as the Ministry of Law, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Singapore Police Force, and Housing & Development Board, and community partners such as Agency for Integrated Care, Community Justice Centre, Inter-Religious Organisation Singapore, Centre for Psychotherapy, Counselling and Care Centre, We Care Community Services, and Silver Ribbon, volunteer mediators from the State Courts and the Community Mediation Centre, as well as the State Courts’ Judges and court administrators.
6 Besides speaker sessions and panel discussions, a song entitled “Say Hello” made its debut. Its lyrics were written by Mr Samuel HK Chua and its music by Mr Ryan Wong. The song was especially composed to encourage disputing parties in any friendship or relationship to take the initiative to reach out to one another, to initiate an honest conversation about the issues that matter and, if possible, to make peace. “Say Hello” can be downloaded from the State Courts’ Facebook Page (@StateCourtsSingapore) or their YouTube channel “State Courts Singapore”.
7 Members of the public who are interested to learn about the options for resolving disputes that are available in the community and through the Courts are invited to attend the free public talk “What You Need to Know about Resolving Disputes” organised by the State Courts on 15 October 2016. More information about the public talk is available at www.statecourtspublictalk2016.com.
Issued by: State Courts, Singapore
Date: 23 September 2016
- Welcome Remarks by Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon, Presiding Judge of the State Courts
- Comments from stakeholders
For further information or clarification, please contact:
(i) Ms Michelle Chiang Assistant Director, Communications Directorate
Tel: 6435 5179 / 9722 6139
(ii) Ms Cheryl Ho Senior Executive, Communications Directorate
Tel: 6435 5498 / 9722 6139
Inaugural Seminar on Resolving Community Disputes 23 September 2016
|“This seminar brings together a wide range of government, academic and community stakeholders, to take stock of Singapore’s progress in community dispute resolution.
“Our multi-cultural environment presents us with unique opportunities and challenges in dispute resolution. The insights shared by the Inter-Religious Organisation show that a better understanding of local religious beliefs and practices can make the difference in preserving harmonious neighbour relations. Professor Kumaralingam Amirthalingam’s insightful presentation of the Community Disputes Resolution Act was also timely and useful as we reflect on our current strategies in resolving community disputes.”
Mr Lim Shung Yar
Community Relations and Engagement Division (CRED)
Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
| “Human beings do not always agree because of differences in our views, personalities, values and even habits. It is these differences that result in conflicts. While conflicts are inevitable, it may not always be a bad thing. The outcome of a conflict depends very much on how we manage it, as it can present an opportunity to improve situations. We should first communicate with the other party to convey our thoughts and understand their position, and if that does not work, we should then consider seeking a neutral third party to help mediate the discussion.
“That does not mean going to the Courts – that should be used as a last resort, as the process is often expensive, adversarial and you will not get a win-win situation. It also ends up straining the relationship between the parties.
“On the other hand, mediation allows parties to come up with practical and flexible solutions that they can live with, TOGETHER. The cost is lower and the dispute can be resolved in a fraction of the time as compared to going to the Courts.”
Ms Elsie Tjoeng
Community Mediation & Ministry of Law Services Centre,
Ministry of Law
| "The Agency for Integrated Care has been collaborating closely with our community partners and government agencies including the State Courts to co-create solutions for clients who may have or are at risk of mental health issues. With such multi-agency collaboration, we are able to adopt an integrated and person-centric approach in responding to the needs of our clients and their caregivers, and in supporting them to recover and live well in the community."
Dr Tan Weng Mooi
Agency for Integrated Care
| “Parties involved in disputes are often emotionally charged and hence may not be in the best frame of mind to make rational decisions nor engage in meaningful communication. The counselling process helps to de-escalate emotions, such that parties involved can have greater clarity of mind to re-assess their situation and actions. It also offers the chance for parties involved to explore various options and choices more freely, within the safety of a confidential and objective setting with a trained counsellor.
“Certainly, counselling is an avenue that people can consider when they are experiencing distress and difficulty in their relationships, either with a family member or neighbour, before such relationships become irreparably damaged.”
Ms Tham Yuen Han
WE CARE Community Services Ltd
| “I see counselling as a useful means to facilitate awareness and understanding between the disputing parties in the process of dispute resolution. Through counselling, intense and difficult to handle emotions and cognitions experienced by the parties involved could be attended to, which may help to facilitate a smoother process of negotiation and problem resolution. In addition, counselling may serve to elicit the interpersonal interaction dynamics that maintain conflict so that steps may be taken to change these dynamics. Through the process of counselling, individuals and families may experience a re-connection with personal and community values that promote harmonious living and relating.
“I do certainly see the potential for counselling as one of the valuable resources in resolving community disputes. It is helpful to work in close collaboration with community agencies to enhance the referral process for counselling to be more humane and compassionate. The collaboration will, in turn, enable community members to appreciate counselling as a caring means to promote personal support and growth, rather than as a punitive means of behavioural or psychological correction.”
Mr Terence Tan
Counselling and Care Centre
| “The counsellor represents the professional third party who possesses relevant updated skills in the intervention process. It may be easier for the groups involved in a conflict to accept the counsellor and the counselling as an intervention person and tool. The counsellor may be acceptable to the conflicting parties.
“The counsellor may be able to get the conflicting parties to be aware of the side effects of the conflict, be more aware of their own emotions and be more open to counselling as normally no one likes to be in a conflict. Everyone, young and old wants to feel empowered.
“They may learn to shed the "old-fashioned" belief that a conflict is bad and only one person needs to win. They could set the pace for a win-win situation and enjoy the process, as counselling for conflicts could be done through play and drama in the counselling setting by a professional counsellor.”
Dr Nisha Rani
Centre for Psychotherapy
| “I have seen how a small misunderstanding between neighbours can snowball into a war zone, just because the parties do not attempt to communicate with each other. For me, mediation provides an opportunity for the parties to break the impasse and open the road to communicate. Only then will there be a higher chance for the dispute to be resolved.”
Mr V. Krishna, PPA(P), BBM, PBM, PBS
Executive Master Mediator, Community Mediation Centre (CMC)
| “Through mediation, you will be amazed by how the voice and reason of a neutral third person can guide disputing parties to calmly discuss their issues and work towards a settlement, thus preventing a major dispute from erupting in their neighbourhood.”
Mr P. Thirunal Karasu, BBM, PBM Executive Master Mediator,
Community Mediation Centre (CMC)