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Legislators say Arbitration law full of gaps

Published:Saturday | March 18, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Mark Golding

Debate on the Arbitration Act, 2017, was suspended in the Senate yesterday after lawmakers highlighted gaps in the legislation that has been in gestation for some time now.

A major criticism levelled against the Government by Senator Mark Golding, leader of opposition business, is that the Jamaican Bar Association and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica were not consulted on this critical piece of proposed statute, which would impact both groups.

Golding told his colleagues in the Upper House that it seemed as if the Government had only consulted with lawyers, who, from past consultations, were known to be committed proponents of the adoption of UNCITRAL Model Law, which the local legislation has adopted.

He contended that the lack of appropriate consultation on this "technical piece of legislation is a major dereliction in governance".

"After all, it is the professionals and business community that will have to live with and use this legislation and, therefore, it is unfortunate that they have not been fully engaged in the process that led to this bill being brought to Parliament," Golding added.

Act has shortcomings

The senator said the blanket adoption of the UNCITRAL Model Law has had some shortcomings, which, he said, should be addressed before the bill is passed.

He argued that the 2009 Bahamian arbitration legislation, which represents a modified version of UNCITRAL, covers several areas that are not contained in the bill.

The Opposition spokesman cited provisions dealing specifically with the death of a party and its effect on an arbitration agreement; the requirement for arbitration proceedings to be in private; details provisions as to the cost involved; and provisions dealing with the use of court proceedings to secure the attendance of witnesses, which are not contained in the Arbitration Act, 2017.

A number of senators on both sides of the aisle participated in the debate.

The bill was passed recently in the Lower House.