Saturday 22 September 2012

RCs not ideal moderators in neighbourhood rows

I WAS a residents' committee (RC) chairman for 10 years and have been a community mediation centre (CMC) mediator for 12 years ("Residents' committees better moderators in neighbourhood rows" by Mr Jeffrey Law; Monday).

Mediation requires a higher level of skill sets and a more professional approach. While the CMC has tried to introduce mediation through satellite venues such as community centres, the take-up rate has been low.

Why? My guess is that disputing parties would prefer mediation to be conducted away from the area where the unhappiness took place, and by professional neutral parties.

Mr Law is right to state that residents would prefer to solve matters speedily and amicably. But they also want an assurance of neutrality and confidentiality for their disputes and settlements - critical areas that hamper RCs as better moderators.

An active RC chairman will know most residents in the neighbourhood. So an RC mediator could be open to accusations of bias and conflict of interest. Worse will follow if proceedings of the mediation and settlement are leaked or publicised.

Some of my fellow mediators who are grassroots leaders have suggested following up on cases they have mediated. I am not in favour of this. I am reminded of the saying "Don't scratch old wounds".

Scratching an old wound will not help in healing. In fact, if one continues scratching it, one slows the healing process.

As for Mr Law's analogy of reviving the collective spirit of village camaraderie of old, I have not lived in a village before, but I think the present three or more blocks of Housing Board flats is far larger than a village.

The modern-day RC thus covers many times the size of a village.

Moreover, we do not have an elected representative such as a village headman, like in the old days.

As Mr Law put it, problems should be nipped in the bud. So the onus is on the RC to do more of the basics in getting neighbours to talk and interact, and to integrate into a warm and friendly neighbourhood.
David Cheong
ST Forum, 21 Sep 2012

Residents' committees better moderators in neighbourhood rows
A LEGAL framework and community mediation centres are not only ineffective, but also slow in resolving disputes between neighbours ("Neighbourly rows can't be settled by law: Experts"; last Monday), especially when problems should be nipped in the bud.

The residents' committee (RC) is better placed to play the role of mediator, as its key members live in the same neighbourhood as the parties in the disputes, and can understand their concerns.

The RCs have played a pivotal role in community bonding by organising block parties, health screenings and other events to bring residents together; their skills and experience stand them in good stead when settling disputes between neighbours.

In the old days, the village headman or penghulu was entrusted with the task of ensuring the well-being of kampung folk.

Besides mediating in neighbourly disputes, he also served as a close liaison between the residents and the authorities.

Perhaps our RCs can be modelled on this concept, which will encourage compromise.

More importantly, residents prefer to resolve matters in their own backyard.
Jeffrey Law
ST Forum, 17 Sep 2012

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