“As no satisfactory legal solution exists currently to deal with social nuisances that affect one’s neighbours, new ways of dealing with such conduct should be considered, said Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday” (Framework Needed For Neighbourly Conduct In Singapore, Miss Neo Chai Chin).
The recommendation to introduce new norms to curb conducts of social nuisance, proposed by Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam – in the report “Framework Needed For Neighbourly Conduct” (September 1, 2012) by Miss Neo Chai Chin – sounds like a practical solution to anecdotal expressions of dissatisfaction. Residents are unhappy that their is no peace and quiet, because a neighbour’s kid is constantly jamming away on his instruments; that someone’s act of frying foodstuffs is making their laundry smell bad; that a person’s pet is yakking away in the dead of the night, et cetera. An institution of a legal framework would be so straightforward; constituents, cognisant of the restrictions and associated penalties, will always be on their toes, thus rendering the neighbourhood more harmonious and conducive.
Yet, is this the route that we should embark upon? My opinion is that a legal framework for neighbourly conduct in Singapore appears unnecessary and contrived, and could give rise to more undesirable ramifications instead of addressing present unhappiness in a sustainable manner. Demanding residents could become pedantically nitpicky, with the intent of finding fault with their neighbours over the slightest of transgressions. Legal liabilities can be perceived as being too Draconian, and legal resolution strategies could harm relationships.
Unnecessary And Contrived?
That is not to say that we should relish in the comforts of the status quo; while we would like everyone to heighten their levels of civic comprehension and communal sensibility, it remains – unfortunately – an impossible ideal. A household could get used to another’s characteristics and idiosyncrasies, compromise, and adapt to those; nevertheless, they might remain subject to inconveniences, since recourse is not an option. There are only, at the moment, sanctions to halt acts of disturbance or misdemeanours in public spaces,
Between these two extremes, we could then strike a balance: a public consultation process can be conducted to ascertain the common issues that residents have with regard to their living environment; ideas can subsequently be generated, with the postulation of propositions – through collaborative discourses with political representatives – to circumvent the concerns; finally, documents can be published expounding on this customary framework established. The exploration of dispute resolution methodologies, in particular, could prove to be handy. Furthermore, these endeavours can be carried out within respective constituencies, if it is opined that individual estates are marked by dissimilar challenges or problems.
No system and mechanism is perfect, so expect some to persist in their “my way or the highway” mentalities; in these instances, when dispute resolution options are snubbed by a party – say, a refusal attend constructive mediation sessions despite multiple reminders – the law can then feature. It is all about striking equilibrium, on a case-by-case basis.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.