SINGAPORE – A new unit is slated to be formed by the end of 2023 to help resolve protracted and egregious disputes between neighbours over noise disturbances.
This group will be given the power to investigate disputes and stop certain nuisance behaviour, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann on Thursday during the debate on her ministry’s budget.
It will also have stronger laws – such as mandatory mediation under the enhanced Community Dispute Management Framework (CDMF) – to resolve “serious cases that are beyond self-help”, she added in response to Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang) and Mr Henry Kwek (Kebun Baru).
Mr Kwek had highlighted disputes arising from intentional anti-social behaviour, which Ms Sim said is a serious matter the Government is closely monitoring and studying.
She noted there is a small set of severe cases where the conflict between neighbours becomes entrenched and acrimonious.
“Often, there are signs that at least one of the conflicting parties purposely weaponised noise to cause suffering to their neighbours over a prolonged period of time. We think this is wrong and that strong actions are needed to put a stop to this,” she added.
The Straits Times reported in 2020 that a couple was barred from their Bukit Panjang flat for a month after they were found to have breached an earlier court order to stop disturbing their neighbours in the unit above. The couple finally sold their flat, ending the protracted dispute which began in 2017.
It was the first time an exclusion order had been issued by the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunal (CDRT) under the State Courts.
Cases where noise is used as a weapon to disrupt the peace among neighbours will be included under the new legal framework on mandatory mediation for community disputes.
Although government intervention could make a difference in some cases, Ms Sim stressed that the preferred mode of neighbourhood dispute resolution is to have both parties engage with each other. Government intervention should not be a first resort.
“We do not wish to stunt the community’s capacity to resolve disputes early when they first occur. If people rely on government personnel in the first instance to deal with their neighbours, it can only weaken the kampung spirit over time,” she said.
Ms Sim said the new unit would be a part of – and not a substitute for – an interlocking system of norm setting, good neighbourly communication and the CDMF.
“By making their presence felt at critical points of dispute resolution, we hope that this unit of dedicated personnel can deliver the right amount of intervention, bring relief to those who have a genuine grievance, and discourage the wilful weaponisation of noise,” she said.