SINGAPORE: Wedding couples and vendors affected by recent Heightened Alert COVID-19 restrictions can now resolve their disputes through a free mediation programme, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said on Monday (Jul 12).
The MinLaw COVID-19 (Wedding) Mediation Programme will be open to those were in contract for the sale of goods and services in relation to a wedding event held between May 8 and Jul 31.
It will provide a channel for parties to explore and reach an "amicable solution" as opposed to taking the dispute to court, said the ministry.
When Singapore tightened community measures on May 8 in response to rising community cases, wedding receptions were initially allowed to proceed with stricter pre-event testing requirements.
Wedding receptions were disallowed from May 16, in line with the ban on dining-in introduced in Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). They were allowed to resume from Monday as Singapore continued easing restrictions in Phase 3 (Heightened Alert).
As for marriage solemnisations, these were allowed to go ahead although the maximum number of attendees was reduced for a few weeks in May and June.
Through the changes, couples and vendors in some cases were able to work out alternatives, such as agreeing to reschedule or downsize events or provision of goods and services, said MinLaw.
"However, not all affected parties have been able to resolve the matter through direct negotiation," said the ministry.
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It encouraged couples and vendors to consider mediation as it has several recognised benefits. These include a high success rate of settlement, time and money savings, preservation of the relationship between parties and confidentiality, said MinLaw.
"The mediation will be facilitated by a neutral trained professional in a non-adversarial and confidential setting.
"Mediators will facilitate the discussion and help parties work towards a mutually acceptable solution."
Requests for mediation must be submitted between Jul 14 and Sep 10. Details on how to submit a request will be published online when submissions open.
Before submitting the request for mediation, it will be useful to seek the other party's agreement to participate, said MinLaw. Mediation will not be arranged if the counterparty does not agree to participate.
The ministry said it will target for the mediation session to be held within two weeks after both parties have agreed to mediate. The session will be conducted virtually over videoconference, and generally be scheduled for two hours.
If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator will assist them to draw up a settlement agreement according to the agreed terms.
MinLaw encouraged those eligible to participate in the mediation programme with an "open mind" and to be "fair and reasonable to each other".
"The COVID-19 restrictions have affected both wedding couples and their vendors, and mutual understanding of the difficulties faced will help them reach a better outcome.
"For parties who are not eligible for the programme, we encourage them to conduct their own negotiations in the same spirit of understanding."