Steadfast in Duty

Even in the most heated of mediation sessions, you can count on Mr Pandiyan s/o Vellasami to be a calming presence, ready to listen to all the parties involved and lead them to an amicable resolution.


The landlord was insistent – the couple who’d rented his flat had damaged it, and had to make good.

Sitting across from him in the hearing room was the young couple, the wife in an advanced stage of pregnancy, and in tears.

Taking the measure of both parties, Mr Pandiyan s/o Vellasami assumed control of the moment. Drawing on over 30 years of experience with the State Courts, he listened patiently as both parties made their case. He explains his process:

“Our guiding principle is to be fair to all parties – I’ll give them time to explain themselves, and whatever is shared with us is held in the strictest confidence. We have to be patient and understanding, and our goal is to find a settlement that’s acceptable to all involved.”

“Not every case can be settled straight away. Through experience, we can tell if there are certain things the parties aren’t telling us openly. If necessary, I’ll speak to the parties privately.”

“It took several sessions, but finally I sensed that the landlord was ready to resolve the matter. So I explained to him that if he was keen to do so, he should understand the couple’s situation as well. Was he ready to make an offer? He was, and the issue was finally resolved.”

This case was just one of many in Mr Pandiyan’s 31-year career with the State Courts. It has been a fulfilling journey, one that allowed him to serve those in need.  

“Since I was young, I’ve had a passion for helping people. I started doing grassroots work when I was 16 years old; it’s just something I have inside me”, he shares.

“After completing my A-Levels, I did my National Service before joining the Customs & Excise Department. In 1988, I applied to be a translator or interpreter with the Public Service. I was appointed an Interpreter and posted to the then Subordinate Courts, now known as State Courts.”

Mr Pandiyan’s daily duties involved interpreting for accused persons who’d been brought before the Court. This work was very much aligned with his own passion for helping those in need, and he took to heart the Court’s values of fairness, integrity and responsiveness.

“It can be intimidating to step inside the court building, especially if you're elderly or illiterate. So, as court officers, we need to meet people at their level, to really help them”, he says.

In 1998, Mr Pandiyan took on a new range of administrative duties. These included assisting with the Court’s Multi-door Courthouse programme, an innovative service that allowed court officers to engage directly with members of the public, and to channel their enquiries to the right department.

He recounts an incident that left an impression on him during that time:

“We wore maroon jackets while we were on duty, and walked around the courthouse, like roving ambassadors, to talk to those who needed assistance. Even our senior officers were rostered for duty.”

“Once, I came across a lady who was crying because she’d been cheated of a large sum of money. She turned out to be a teacher. I explained to her how the different court applications worked so that she could decide on her next course of action.”

“This showed me once again why it’s important to have a patient ear, and to reach out to those who need help.”

Feeling strongly that he should improve his knowledge of legal matters, in 1999, Mr Pandiyan embarked on a Diploma in Para Legal Studies at Temasek Polytechnic, with the encouragement of his supervisors.

He says: “It was hard to work and study at the same time, but I completed my diploma in 2003. The State Courts are very understanding, and our supervisors guide and support us in taking courses that are relevant to our duties and career development. I was also able to apply what I’d learnt by taking on new responsibilities.”

“It’s important for court officers to have a good knowledge of the court process, and to show empathy because we aren’t only interacting with lawyers and police officers, but also engaging with accused persons, their family members and friends.”

After a stint with the Small Claims Tribunals, Mr Pandiyan was appointed the Chief Court Officer in 2009 to lead a team of over 70 court officers. As part of an organisational change to serve the public better, in 2014, Mr Pandiyan was tasked to help set up the Community Justice and Tribunals Division (CJTD), which comprises the Small Claims Tribunals and the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals. CJTD also manages matters under the Protection from Harassment Act.


Every morning, Mr Pandiyan makes sure that the registry counters are manned, and the officers are ready to assist members of the public. At times, he'll have to come forward to deal with difficult litigants and also conduct pre-filing consultation for court users who need assistance. Besides serving as a bridge between the Judges and CJTD staff, Mr Pandiyan is also called upon to hear small claims disputes and mediate the cases. It’s a role he relishes.

“You could say that mediation is another of my passions”, he says.

“People come to us with cases that they can’t resolve on their own because they know we’ll be fair and impartial. I help them understand that if there’s no settlement, they’ll have to face a hearing, in which case a judge will decide based on the facts of the case. One party may win, and the other lose.”

“To be a good mediator, you need to have a good ear, and patience. Of course, it also helps that I’m a little older, with white hair, so people are more inclined to listen to me! In addition, having experience dealing with the issues before you will be an added asset.”

“What I enjoy about my job is that it gives me the opportunity to do what I love. Right now, I’m also pursuing a graduate diploma in counselling; I know that it will help me in my work.”

“When we can resolve a dispute and bring the parties together to shake hands, it’s very satisfying.”

    Mar 14, 2017
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