Workshop on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by the Penang Council of Justices of Peace

I was recently invited by the JPs Council of Penang to deliver a presentation in a workshop on ADR. I spoke about the benefits of Community Mediation and shared the experience of other regions. The JPs of Penang launched the first ever initiative for the establishment of a Mediation Bureau officiated by the presence of Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas, the Yang Dipertua Negeri of the Penang State.

It was quite an eye opening experience to me realising the impact that this initiative would have to the community.

I must thank Ir Harbans Singh and the KLRCA for the opportunity to be part of the training team together with Ms Samrith. We had delivered a training course to the JPs and some volunteers of the community with mediation practice and techniques.

Whilst preparing for the presentation, I realised the huge gap that was left in the community with the growing number of nucleur families. A great part of our history and evolution shows that prior to the establishment of a proper legal structure for the resolution of conflicts and disputes, much of these community disputes or issues were attended to or resolved by the community elders. They were the leaders selected amongst the wise men in a particular community and in larger families, the head of the family. The importance of mediation can be traced back to the philosophy of Confucianism in China. In India it is known as the Pancayat System and the Penghulu system in Malaysia. This approach dates back and was developed by the ancient Greek. In essence the concept is similar. Family or relationship based disputes had the advantage of having someone from the similar cultural background, upbringing, sensitivity and a more personal touch for the resolution of dispute.

Mediation skills were applied in its most basic nature by these wise men.

Community mediation as it is practiced these days focuses on neighbourhood conflicts championed by trained volunteer who are the more respected senior member of the community. Mediation is an innate quality that we all have and with some basic steps and processes, it could be a usefull method of resolving disputes. We all are aware that to refer a matter to the court through a private legal firm maybe costly and may not be within everyone’s mean. Dispute, be it small or huge in amount would mean the same to the person g