Speech by SMS Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee at the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators (SIArb) Annual Dinner
29 Oct 2010 Posted in Speeches
Mr. Johnny Tan, President, SIArb,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to join you at your Institute’s Annual Dinner tonight.
As some of you know, I was an active member of SIArb when I was teaching at the NUS Law Faculty 30 years ago. Having been involved in the Institute’s early development, I am happy to see how it has grown since then. Also, for about 8 years between 1998 and 2006, having chaired a Resource Panel To Promote Alternative Dispute Processes at the Ministry of Law which later evolved into an Advisory Committee, I am happy that our early efforts have produced strong dividends in recent years. Other than arbitration, the Advisory Committee helped to stimulate the growth of mediation services across industries in diverse areas such as consumer contracts, small commercial claims, banking and insurance, construction, family disputes, amongst others. Today, these services help to settle disputes in these key areas expeditiously.
From a small group of 25 professionals in 1981, the Institute’s membership now stands at close to 800, with members from 23 countries. This bears strong testimony to the growing influence of SIArb as well as the rising significance of arbitration in Singapore and our surrounding region.
Developments in Singapore’s Arbitration Scene
- We are all aware of the tremendous growth in arbitration in Singapore, particularly in the area of international commercial arbitration. Straddling both Asia and the West, Singapore is seen as a favourable neutral venue and has been used as the seat for many international commercial arbitration proceedings. The growing importance of Singapore as a centre for international arbitration has been highlighted in recent reports published in the Global Arbitration Review and Financier Worldwide.
- From the Government’s perspective, we have sought to ensure that the legislative and physical infrastructure supporting arbitration activity is strong. Our legislative framework is very pro-arbitration. We have an open and liberal regime for arbitration practice in Singapore. Parties, regardless of nationality, can conduct their hearings in Singapore, and are at liberty to use any governing law in their proceedings and engage lawyers of any nationality from any country. We have also been attentive to international developments and have sought to keep our International Arbitration Act and Arbitration Act aligned with international best practices. In terms of physical infrastructure, we have set up a world class arbitration facility – Maxwell Chambers, where SIArb’s office is now located. Maxwell Chambers houses many of the world’s top arbitration institutions and provides purpose built state-of-art facilities and ancillary services to support arbitration hearings.
- For example, we amended our laws last year to modernise the definition of “arbitration agreement” and to allow Court-ordered interim measures in support of arbitrations conducted outside Singapore. We have also introduced other measures to facilitate arbitration work being done here such as exempting income earned by foreign arbitrators from tax and introducing a tax incentive scheme for arbitration work for law firms.
SIArb’s Role in the Local Arbitration Scene
- Whilst the Government can provide a supporting framework to promote arbitration activity, this alone is not sufficient. As a key local professional body, SIArb plays a major role in helping to maintain the quality and professional standards of our local arbitrators through its various training and education programmes. At the end of the day, what matters to the users of arbitration, is the arbitrator. We can have supporting infrastructure, but it is the arbitrator who completes the picture through his skilled management of the arbitration process and his wisdom in arriving at a well reasoned and impartial arbitration award that both parties are willing to abide by.
- Through its framework for continuing professional development, SIArb can further strengthen Singapore’s reputation by helping our arbitration practitioners constantly update and improve their professional knowledge and competencies. In this regard, I understand that from early this year, SIArb has made continuing professional development a requirement for renewal to its panel of arbitrators. I congratulate the Institute for taking this step, which will certainly help to enhance the professional expertise and reputation of its arbitrators.
- The Institute’s presence in Maxwell Chambers also provides it with an excellent opportunity to tap the expertise of the many eminent arbitrators and counsel who use the Chambers’ facilities. I am happy to note that its evening seminars have featured not only local arbitration experts, but also renowed speakers from overseas. For instance, your Institute’s International Commercial Arbitration Symposium held last month attracted delegates from not just Singapore, but also overseas.
SIArb’s Regional Profile
- Besides improving the skills of our local arbitrators, events like the recent Symposium has enhanced the regional profile not only of SIArb but Singapore arbitration as well. In this regard, I believe that the Institute has now matured and grown to be more than just a national arbitration body. Given its diverse membership base which spans more than 20 different countries, the Institute is well positioned to extend its wings into the region.
- I note that SIArb has made efforts to raise its regional profile in recent years. This is commendable. The organizers tell me that last year, the Institute worked with the Law Society and KhattarWong Partnership to conduct a training course in Vietnam for the Ho Chi Min Bar Association. This year, it worked with the Law Society and SIAC under the sponsorship of the World Bank Group to help train Cambodia’s National Arbitration Centre’s pioneer batch of arbitrators. That the SIArb-SIAC-Law Society team was selected in an open bid exercise reflects well on the confidence that the regional arbitration community has in the quality of Singapore’s arbitral institutions. These are positive initiatives for the profiling of our local arbitrators and the sharing of expertise.
- Moving forward, Singapore’s growth as a global arbitration hub will undoubtedly require the contribution and collaboration of key domestic players like SIArb. Through its local and regional initiatives, I am confident that the Institute is well-poised to bring itself - and the Singapore arbitration landscape - to even greater heights.
- On that note, I wish you all an enjoyable evening. Thank you.
Last updated on 25 Nov 2012