A GOOD neighbourhood is something everyone looks forward to in bringing up a family. It’s one that is safe and free from enmity and vengeance.
Neighbourhood conflict is common but this does not mean that it must end up in court.
Such disputes can be resolved through community mediation. This is where the penghulu or ketua kampung (village headman or elder) can solve problems in his village.
Community mediation may focus on problems faced by the community, such as nuisance in the neighbourhood, trespass, family feuds, landlord and tenant issues, neighbourhood squabbles involving children, pets and animals, use and maintenance of driveways, cars, bright lights, party walls and trash disposal.
Intercultural disputes could also be resolved through community mediation where the disputants can come to appreciate the differences and sensitivities of another person’s culture.
If these cases were to go to court, it would not only take years to be settled but at the end of it, there would be a party who wins and a party who loses. In the process, the relationship of the once-good neighbours would have turned sour.
If the matter were settled by a community mediator, the outcome would be a win-a-win situation for both parties.
This is because the community mediator does not lay down decisions but facilitates a flow of thought and lends ideas to the parties, who will come to a consensus by themselves.
Community mediation is a flexible process where the disputing parties are brought together in the presence of a community mediator, a neutral person, who assists them to work out their problems with each other, clarify the issues, discuss their opinions, and reach a settlement.
As the mediation is done behind closed doors, it remains private and confidential. This is a reason why community mediation is gaining popularity.
Not everyone can be a community mediator. A mediator should either be a community elder or someone who commands respect from his neighbourhood.
A mediator should have the ability to calm disputants. This is an art by itself. Such a mastery can be attained only through years of mediating or by attending mediation courses.
Community mediation centres are being set up to provide facilities for mediation to be conducted and to enable records to be kept.
Community mediation training and accreditation are also becoming common in certain countries, given its success rate in resolving disputes.
PROFESSOR DATUK SERI
DR ASHGAR ALI ALI MOHAMED
Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws,
International Islamic University Malaysia