Community mediator learnt neighbour who dragged furniture at 3am was dying of cancer

SINGAPORE – Community mediator Steven Yeo shared his own experience with a neighbour who dragged furniture at 3am, to argue for tolerance, during a discussion on unacceptable noise in a dense city like Singapore.

Mr Yeo, 63, who lives at a Housing Board block in Tampines North, said he would sometimes be roused from sleep by the noise his elderly neighbour, who lived above him, made.

This happened about five years ago.

“He invited me to dinner one day and that’s when I learnt that he had cancer.

“The pain would occasionally become so great that he would have to drag a chair,” said Mr Yeo, a grassroots leader.

Sympathetic to his neighbour’s medical condition, Mr Yeo decided to bear with the noise. It stopped when the man died.

Mr Yeo was among 53 participants, aged 20 to above 70 years old, who spoke at the eighth focus group discussion on Saturday (Aug 13) held at the Ministry of National Development.

Around eight in 10 of those who participated live in HDB flats.

Their feedback will help shape new national guidelines on acceptable and unacceptable neighbourhood noise levels. The guidelines will be ready by the end of this year.

Mr Yeo, who has been a community mediator for about six years, said people are afraid of talking to their neighbours about noise.

“We should remember that other people have their circumstances, and it’s important to share a common understanding when sharing the same estate,” he added.

A community advisory panel was formed in April this year to tackle unacceptable neighbourhood noise from residents as well as outdoor spaces such as basketball courts and coffee shops.

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It is chaired by Singapore Kindness Movement’s general secretary, Dr William Wan, and comprises nine representatives from the social and people sectors and academia.

The panel is assisted by the Municipal Services Office (MSO) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

Among the recommendations the panel is exploring is to adjust the current quiet hours of 10.30pm to 7am.