Mon | Oct 23, 2017

House hurdle cleared for arbitration bill to replace 1900 law

Published:Monday | January 30, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Chuck
Hylton
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Jamaica's outdated arbitration bill that came into operation in June 1900 is closer to being replaced by modern legislation that got approval Tuesday from lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

Although Industry Minister Karl Samuda asked jokingly "are you finished now?" of Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, who was piloting the bill, there was no major opposition.

Anthony Hylton, the opposition spokesman on the industry and investment, raised concerns about Clause 13, which said that if the parties in a dispute fail to agree on the number of arbitrators to settle the issue, the number for that case must be three.

He argued that making the mandatory three, and not at least one, goes against the legislation's aim, which is to provide an out-of-court mechanism for settling disputes that is not costly.

Said Hylton: "This could diminish Jamaica's competitiveness among arbitration centres, which allow for the single arbitrator possibility in those circumstances. I caution the Government in going along this route, and am suggesting that we examine this provision further."

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte explained that the reason the mandatory three was proposed was to ensure that the two sides in a dispute could appoint their own arbitrator then agree on a third.

Speaker Pearnel Charles suggested bi-partisan talks and got the Houses' approval to suspend the deliberations on the bill to facilitate the talks.

PASSED AND APPROVED

When the House resumed, the clause was passed without amendment. The bill was later approved.

In opening debate on the bill, Chuck asserted that investors had lost confidence in the 1900 law and replacing it with the 2017 legislation would restore the belief in doing business here and settling disputes under current international standards.

A key part of the new bill is the adoption of the 1985 United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. It covers the stages of the arbitral process, which the commission said includes the arbitration agreement, the composition and jurisdiction of arbitral tribunal and the extent of court intervention.

The bill will go the Senate for debate.