Singapore starts public opinion survey on more effective neighbour dispute management

A public opinion survey on major changes to neighbour dispute management in Singapore begins from today, 6pm local time, and it runs till May 31. The survey can be found online.

The survey is designed to find out how the people of Singapore feel about giving increased powers to public officers in the island nation in order to settle “serious” disputes among neighbours.

The majority of community disputes involve neighbourhood noise, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. Photo: CtoI

“What qualifies as serious will be considered on a case by case basis, having regard to the context and circumstances in which the dispute has arisen,” said a post dated May 9 on the website of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), Singapore. “The majority of community disputes involve neighbourhood noise,” it added.

According to the information available, the increased powers include public officers entering homes and seizing items related to disputes. The powers will be activated if changes suggested in the Community Dispute Management Framework (CDMF) come into effect. Public feedback on this matter is invited through the online survey.

The survey, which is essentially a consultation between the government and the public, has been initiated by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth; Ministry of Law; and Ministry of National Development under the ‘Forward Singapore’ exercise.

The changes suggested in the CDMF aim at “more targeted and effective intervention in serious neighbour dispute cases”, according to information released to Singapore media. The changes give the Community Mediation Centre the power to ask for a repeat mediation for cases that were settled in the past but whose terms were breached afterwards.

The enhanced powers for public officers would reportedly allow them to enter residential premises with or without the consent of the occupants. They would be allowed to also stop disruptions and/or confiscate “nuisance-causing object[s]”.

CDMF, established about eight years ago, promotes good relations among Singapore neighbours.

The MCCY post said: “The Community Dispute Management Framework promotes neighbourliness and encourages residents to engage with one another in the first instance, when disputes arise. As much as possible, it is best that disputes are resolved amicably at an early stage, before they become intransigent or intractable.

“Residents can also seek help from grassroots leaders to facilitate communications or attempt formal mediation at the Community Mediation Centre with a trained mediator.”

If and when a dispute does become “intransigent or intractable” and the neighbours have a serious falling out, then the suggested increased powers of public officers might be required for an intervention.