Long ago in a rural Arabic village lived an old man. After passing away, he left his three sons all of his assets, 17 camels. In his will, he allocated 1/2 to his eldest son, 1/3 to his second son, and 1/9 to his youngest son. There was, however, one condition. None of the camels may be sold or killed. As 17 is a prime number, the three sons were, hence, very puzzled as to how they should divide the camels in accordance with their father’s will. Unable to come to an agreement, the three sons decided to take the issue to the wise man in their village.
After hearing their problem, the wise man told the three sons that all he could do was to lend them a camel of his own but that they must return the camel to him within a single week. After returning home with the wise man’s camel, the three sons realised with 18 camels, 1/2 was 9 camels, 1/3 was 6 camels, and 1/9 was 2 camels, a total of 17 camels. With the wise man’s help, they were able to come to an agreement and resolve their problem.
In Hong Kong, many retirees are well equipped with professional knowledge and life experience. They, too, can act as the “wise man” to help others resolve disputes. The government and the judiciary, in recent years, have begun promoting “Mediate First”. But what does working in mediation entail? Can retirees become accredited mediators?
According to the Mediation Ordinance, a mediator is an impartial individual whose purpose is to facilitate a structured process to help parties identify the issues in disputes, explore and generate options, communicate with one another, and to reach an agreement regarding the resolution of the whole, or part, of the dispute. Like the wise man of the village, a mediator should not adjudicate a dispute, or give advice. The modern day mediator will, however, NOT be required to lend a camel to the parties!
Mediation has proved to be an effective way to resolve disputes as it embodies unique characteristics – (1) Mediation sessions are conducted in confidence; this provides an open platform for parties to communicate their views and perspectives in an unreserved manner; (2) The mediator does not offer a solution, but focuses on facilitating communication, allowing parties to find common ground and create their own solutions; (3) Generally speaking, mediation sessions may be held at any time and location, which is much more time effective compared with judicial proceedings; (4) Mediation makes no attempt in replacing the role of the courts; instead, it provides parties involved in litigation with an alternate platform to resolve their disputes voluntarily in an effective manner.
In Hong Kong, there are currently very few full-time mediators, with the majority taking on mediation as a secondary profession, or volunteer work. A common thing most mediators share is the satisfaction from assisting in resolving disputes, helping parties steer away from the huge risks and costs involved in litigation. Notable accredited mediators who are retirees include Ms. Pauline Ng, S.B.S., Dr. Jimmy Ma, S.B.S., J.P., and Dr David Dai Lok Kwan, JP.
Anyone who completes a 40-hour course accredited by the Hong Kong Mediation Accreditation Association Limited (HKMAAL), as well as relevant assessments, may become an accredited mediator. For more information, please refer to HKMAAL’s website.
(Author’s note: This article was written with the help of Mr. Ching K Iu)