SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE SMALL CLAIMS TRIBUNALS (AMENDMENT) BILL IN PARLIAMENT ON 9 JULY 2018
The Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) is an important platform to resolve small claims between consumers and retailers or suppliers. With the rise of entrepreneurship, and also the advent of on-line shopping, the cases of disputes between parties are likely to rise. The simplicity of the process and the ease of access of the SCT is therefore important. Certainly, it is an opportune moment to introduce some enhancements to the Small Claims Tribunals Bill. I will raise three points today- preventing abuse of the mediation process, legal representation for individuals and public education.
When it comes to solving disputes and conflicts, I am a firm believer in mediation.
If implemented effectively, it could stop a dispute from escalating into a court case, saving resources and time for everyone. In Nee Soon South, we have even set up a Mediation Club and hope to train many more grassroots leaders in mediation.
Yet while mediation is an important tool for problem solving, it may be abused as an excuse to delay resolution. A party with more time and resources can drag out the mediation, hoping the other party runs out of resources or gives up. How will the Ministry ensure that this doesn’t happen? Will the CMC limit the mediation to one day, just like it does for Magistrate-referred cases?
My second point is on legal representation for individuals. Lawyers are not allowed in small claims tribunal or community mediation. But often the disputes are between an individual and a company. Usually, the company will have a lawyer to advise them outside the courts. To better address the imbalance of bargaining power and prevent issues arising from the individual not understanding his or her legal rights, can layperson be allowed legal representation during Small Claim Tribunal Mediation ?
Third, I also hope more can be done to reach out to the elderly and vulnerable so that they are aware of how and where to get help should they encounter a need to raise a dispute. I hope some form of public education can be launched to help the public to know and understand the process available to them.
Sir, Chinese please.小额索偿庭的纠纷，往往是个人和公司之间的纠纷。虽然小额索偿庭和社区调解中心不允许律师参与，公司往往还是有律师告诉他们怎么做。 但是，小市民却没有， 这点不太公平，好像大欺小。我们是否能让参与索偿的小市民，寻求法律代表？
Sir, I support the Bill.