The Honourable Attorney-General,
retired Chief Justice Yong Pung How,
Friends of the Singapore Mediation Centre,
Ladies & Gentlemen
1 It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to SMC’s 9th birthday celebrations.
2 On behalf of the SMC, I would like to thank our partners, supporters and friends for working tirelessly with us over the past 9 years to promote the use of mediation by acting as our neutrals; by recommending cases to SMC; by using our training programmes and supporting our various activities.
3 As a result of your contributions, SMC has built a credible track record which we can all be proud of. Since 1997, over 1,300 disputes have been referred for mediation at SMC. An impressive 75% of these were resolved amicably and 90% of these were settled within one day.
4 While these statistics are a useful measure of what we have achieved so far, it is important also to look at some of the intangible benefits that SMC has accomplished. For example, there is now greater awareness among lawyers and professionals in various industries of the benefits of using mediation as a means of dispute resolution. SMC has also nurtured a pool of expert mediators and ADR experts from different backgrounds and disciplines and our users have benefited from their experience and expertise whether it is in the area of construction, IT, banking, shipping or intellectual property disputes.
5 Over the next few years, the challenge is for SMC to strengthen its reputation and increase the number of mediation cases. SMC will do this by looking at new markets in Singapore and overseas.
6 Given that the number of cases for mediation in Singapore is limited, SMC will work with partners and professional bodies and organisations to promote its services to the region. This is in line with the government’s plan to promote Singapore as an ADR hub. We are in the process of working out the details andwill be happy to share these plans with you when they are finalised.
7 Within Singapore, SMC will endeavour to make mediation services more accessible to the public, especially to people who are keen on using mediation as a first stop in resolving their disputes but find the costs prohibitive. For a while now, SMC has been receiving enquiries for mediation services at a lower cost for claims where the quantum is low. Given that SMC’s mediation fees start from $900 per party per day, it is disproportionate to the amount in contention in small cases. Mediation may thereby be ruled out as a viable option.
8 To address this problem, I am pleased today to officially launch the Small Case Commercial Mediation Scheme or SCCMS. This new initiative will allow SMC to make mediation services more affordable for cases where the quantum of claim is $30,000 or less.
9 As with our current mediation process, parties using SCCMS must be willing and ready to mediate. SMC will run weekly Mediation Advisory Clinics to help disputants ascertain whether their case is suitable for mediation. Each party will pay a nominal fee of $10 for attending the clinic. If the case proceeds to mediation, the mediation fees will only be $25 per party [ and they get a rebate of $10 for attending the Mediation Advisory Clinic. To promote this service, SMC has decided to waive the $10 clinic fee for a limited period. ] ?
10 By providing this service at subsidised rates, we hope to increase public awareness of the benefits of mediation. In time to come, we will review these rates to make the service more commercially viable.
11 At the same time, SCCMS will provide an opportunity for SMC trainers and Associate Mediators to cut their teeth on actual cases.
12 To conclude, let me share what our retired Chief Justice, Yong Pung How wrote in the foreword that was published in SMC’s first anniversary commemorative publication. He wrote, “When I launched the Singapore Mediation Centre on 16 August 1997, I noted that we should aspire to build a congenial society where people can live and work together peaceably. The culture of fault-finding must go. The mediation movement brings us a step closer to that aspiration as it provides people in conflict with a dignified way to find solutions together.”
13 I believe that the SMC has brought us a few steps closer to this aspiration but it is still a work in progress. In order that SMC can continue to contribute meaningfully to the mediation movement, it must continue to adapt and expand its services to meet the needs of its users. I am confident that the SMC will be able to rise to this challenge with your continued support.
14 Yours is a noble calling and I wish you success in your endeavours. Though the ultimate objective is the same in each mediation, ie. to achieve resolution of a dispute, the technique employed may vary. It may consist in reminding a party in contention of the Italian proverb that “It is better to lose the saddle than the horse” or convincing him in similar vein that “A lean compromise is better than a fat lawsuit”: George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum (1651).
15 The most “accomplished” amongst you may even succeed in persuading both adversaries that, in the compromise, “he has got what he ought not to have, and is deprived of nothing except what was justly his due”: Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary.
16 In closing, I thank you once again for the outstanding work and support that you have given to SMC over the last year.