On 29 October 2013, Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Law (the “Minister”), in his keynote speech at a conference in Singapore, announced the following two key initiatives aimed at making Singapore stand out as the premier destination for legal services and resolution of disputes regionally and globally:
- Establishing a new independently run mediation centre
- Setting up a Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”).
Independent Mediation Centre
The Ministry of Law (the “MinLaw”) will establish a new independently run mediation centre which will have an international board with international mediation experts. There will be an independent professional body to ensure the highest professional standards. The MinLaw will ensure that capabilities and product innovations will be forward looking and user oriented, and that the necessary legislative framework and infrastructure will be put in place to support mediation.
The MinLaw has established a Working Group on International Commercial Mediation to make recommendations on what needs to be done. The MinLaw is closely working with the Singapore Mediation Centre and other industry stakeholders on enhancing their capabilities in this field.
Singapore International Commercial Court
The other initiative is to set up an SICC because it is expected that the rise in investments will inevitably lead to cross border disputes and the increasingly complexity of commercial transactions means more disputes of an international character. The Minister observes that although there is arbitration and mediation, litigation in an international court is a necessary product that people are going to need in Asia.
The MinLaw is looking at how the coercive jurisdiction of a court of law can be brought into a multi-jurisdictional dispute which is not amenable to arbitration. In this regard, the MinLaw has set up a Committee chaired by Senior Minister of State for Law, former Senior Counsel Indranee Rajah and Justice of Appeal VK Rajah to look into establishing the SICC.
Some of the issues that the Committee will address include the mechanics, jurisdictional issues and enforceability issues, and who should be the judges. It will require a change to the Singapore Constitution. Ideally, the SICC would have judges of international standing from different parts of the world.
The Committee will also look at streamlined rules that will ensure that cases are dealt with in a timely manner in accordance with the best international practices.