12 Nov 2013 Posted in Speeches
I am delighted to be here this evening with you at the CMC’s Mediators’ Appointment Ceremony and Appreciation Dinner. Tonight, as has been said, we celebrate the 15th anniversary. I would like to congratulate the CMC and all the mediators here for 15 years of a job well done!
CMC’s annual dinner is to recognise the invaluable contributions of the volunteer mediators. I am told that this year, we have in our midst spouses, family members, employers and friends of our mediators and to all of the guests, I say welcome. You have been integral to our mediators’ journey with us and I hope that by the end of tonight, you will have an even better understanding of the life of a CMC mediator.
Recognising the pioneers
- Most of you would be familiar with how the CMC first started in Singapore. Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, my predecessor – who is familiar to many of you – was appointed as Chairman of a Committee to look into how Alternative Dispute Resolution processes such as mediation could be promoted in Singapore. His Committee recommended the establishment of the CMC in Singapore, a recommendation which the Government accepted and enacted into law in 1998.
- Soon after the law was passed, work to recruit volunteer mediators began and the first volunteers to render their services at the CMC were mostly grassroots and community leaders. Tonight, we will be recognising the contributions of the mediators of this pioneer batch.
- In her first year, the CMC handled about 100 cases. This number grew to more than 600 by 2012. Since 1998, more than 5,000 cases have been mediated at the CMCs, with seven out of every 10 cases reaching a settlement. That’s quite a remarkable achievement if you think about it.
- These numbers are the result of years of work and partnerships between the CMC and agencies such as the HDB, the Police and Town Councils, as well as the Subordinate Courts and grassroots organisations. Our partners, some of whom are here tonight with us, help channel suitable cases to the CMC in a timely manner before the dispute is allowed to fester and deteriorate further and these partnerships are important. We acknowledge the efforts of our partners who have worked closely with us for the past 15 years and we look forward to an even stronger partnership in the years to come, so that the public can continue to seek mediation services swiftly, when they need it.
- Community mediation would have no utility if the public did not know it existed, or how to tap on such a service and this is why over the years, the CMC has placed such a strong emphasis on education efforts to create public awareness and understanding of community mediation. These efforts include holding road shows with skits and setting up information booths at community events, as well as conducting peer mediation workshops. Through these avenues, CMC has also met members of the public who have indicated their interest in volunteering as mediators. It is heart-warming to see that even as we work to raise public awareness of mediation, there are already those who believe in the benefits of mediation and want to give back to the community by volunteering with the CMC.
Community Mediators: The core of CMC’s framework
- Much of the CMC’s work is only possible with the contributions of our volunteer mediators, who have been and will always be a core part of our efforts. From less than 30 volunteers when it first started, the CMC has more than 140 volunteers in the panel today, including six new mediators who joined us in August this year. We want to extend a very warm welcome to our new mediators: I hope after seeing your fellow mediators recognised for their contributions tonight, you will be inspired by their strong spirit of volunteerism to do even more for the community. To those who have been recently promoted to Master Mediators, congratulations on your commitment and outstanding service to the community.
Developing the skills of our mediators
- Last year, CMC introduced a new Mediator Management Framework (MMF) which is aimed at providing a more structured approach in the recruitment, appointment and professional development of community mediators. We often hear about the importance of lifelong learning and upgrading of one’s skills to remain relevant. We also seek to apply this principle to CMC’s panel of volunteer mediators. Our mediators are essential to the speedy and effective resolution of social and community disputes before they grow into something much more serious. It is thus critical that our mediators undergo continuous training to keep their knowledge and mediation skills relevant and up-to-date.
- In this regard, the Ministry of Law will co-fund eligible mediators who are interested in pursuing approved local or overseas programmes. One such programme is the collaboration between the CMC and Temasek Polytechnic, in which eligible CMC volunteer mediators will be partially sponsored  to pursue a Certificate in Law for Community Mediators. Through this programme, the mediators will pick up legal knowledge that will complement their existing mediation know-how when handling social and community disputes.
- I am heartened to hear that six community mediators have recently started on this programme. I am even more heartened to learn that the oldest amongst them is 65 years old.
- The sponsorship of such programmes show CMC’s commitment to raise the professionalism of the mediators, and I hope more of you will be encouraged to come forward to join them.
Future of Community Mediation
- CMC’s early work has enabled mediation to become recognised as core harmony within a society made up of varied racial and ethnic understandings of how to live closely together in a dense urban setting. As announced last year, the Government intends to set up a framework for the management of community disputes and basically, neighbour disputes. Those of you who have been involved in grassroots work will be very familiar with this. Those of you who have not, you’re about to become very familiar with this once we set up the new framework. An Inter-agency Committee for Community Dispute Resolution helmed by MCCY has already begun a process of consultation.
- What is envisaged is that community mediation will become central to the resolution of community disputes, incorporating mandatory mediation wherever appropriate and a Community Dispute Resolution Tribunal will eventually be set up. The CMC will be an integral part of these new plans.
- Many of you present here tonight would have noticed that social norms, attitudes and the nature of disputes are shifting and changing. As mediators, you will be at the frontline of ensuring our social fabric remains strong and I am sure that there are exciting times ahead for you.
- In conclusion, I am glad to note that in these 15 years of building bridges within the community, the CMC and its volunteer mediators continue to remain steadfast in the goal of cultivating a less litigious and more gracious community and I would like once again to congratulate CMC on its 15th anniversary. Thank you all very much and please enjoy the rest of your evening.
 CMC will pay 80 per cent of course fees, while mediators pay 20 per cent.
Last updated on 12 Nov 2013