21 Jan 2010 Posted in Speeches
Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong
Minister for Law Mr K. Shanmugam
Chairman of Maxwell Chambers Mr Chelva Rajah
Ladies and Gentlemen
When I was Minister for Law, I was very closely involved in the project to set up an integrated dispute resolution centre. It is therefore a great personal pleasure for me to join all of you at this official opening of the Maxwell Chambers.
For those who may not be familiar with the background, let me recap some of the key milestones leading to the setting up of this world-class dispute resolution facility for arbitrations.
In 2002, the Legal Services Working Group (LWG) of the Economic Review Committee (ERC) chaired by then DPM Lee Hsien Loong stressed the need for “good infrastructure and facilities” to make Singapore a regional alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service centre.
In November 2005, we in the Ministry of Law began planning for the development of an integrated dispute resolution complex, and we explored various possible sites.
In February 2006, the American Arbitration Association signed an agreement with the Singapore International Arbitration Centre to start a joint venture in Singapore and this was a major step forward for Singapore’s arbitration industry. The next year, another major international arbitration institution, The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), based in The Hague, signed an agreement with the Singapore Government to start a virtual hearing centre in Singapore, for PCA cases.
In October 2006, at a joint SIAC-AAA-ICC conference, I announced the development of this dispute resolution complex. In January 2007, we settled on the site and commenced design work. In July 2009, the refurbishment works were completed and the building opened for hearings.
Maxwell facilities & features
- Maxwell Chambers was designed to be the world’s first integrated dispute resolution complex. As you will no doubt see for yourselves, it has best-in-class hearing room facilities and services. With this facility, Singapore is now poised to become a place where every facet of the arbitration process is taken care of to the satisfaction of the users.
- This is especially important for big international cases, where the duration of the case tends to be long and the number of counsel and parties involved much greater. Proper hearing room facilities go a long way for such cases.
- To date, Maxwell Chambers has had more than 60 arbitration hearings, both local and international cases. Arbitrators and counsel from around Asia, and as far as Australia and the United Kingdom, have used the facility.
- It also houses many international arbitration institutions from around the world, and they include:
- the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (or SIAC);
- the American Arbitration Association (or AAA);
- the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC;
- the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (or ICSID), which will be signing an agreement with Maxwell Chambers this evening.
- the Permanent Court of Arbitration (or PCA);
- the Arbitration and Mediation Centre of the World Intellectual Property Organization (or WIPO-AMC);
- the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration;
- the International Mediation Institute;
- the Singapore Mediation Centre;
- the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators; and
- the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators.
Singapore as an international arbitration hub
- We will be deluding ourselves, however, if we believe that excellent physical facilities and infrastructure alone will ensure success in making Singapore an international arbitration hub. It depends on many other factors which fortunately Singapore already has to its advantage, but which we must continue to nurture and not take for granted.
- First, we have a robust legal system and effective arbitration infrastructure, as well as a judiciary that is understanding and supportive of arbitration.
- Second, we have a well-developed business infrastructure and good connectivity by air to countries all over the world.
- Third, we have a strong pool of lawyers who are skilled in arbitration work, as well as international arbitrators of international repute.
- Next, we are constantly re-examining our legal regime on arbitrations to ensure that we are arbitration friendly and stay competitive.
- For example, in 2007, I requested Justice V K Rajah to chair a high level committee to comprehensively review the legal services industry in Singapore. Its objective was to ensure that Singapore remains at the cutting edge as an international provider of legal services. The committee made wide-ranging recommendations, one of which was on the liberalisation of the legal and arbitration sector. We accepted the proposals and have implemented them.
- In line with the recommendations, we also enlarged the pool of legal talent available by attracting foreign arbitrators and law firms to work out of Singapore and by strengthening our legal education infrastructure. We reviewed and streamlined the administrative processes for entering Singapore so that foreign lawyers and arbitrators can come here to do their work with minimal fuss.
- As practitioners in the audience know, over recent years, we have enacted legislative changes to liberalise and update the legal regime for arbitrations. These included:
- Freedom for foreign lawyers and arbitrators to practise arbitration in Singapore;
- Clarifying the powers of the Courts with regard to the granting of interim measures in support of foreign arbitrations, and also to introduce a framework for authenticating arbitration awards.
- All these developments have led to Singapore being widely recognised as a premier arbitration venue in the region with its world class infrastructure, excellent support facilities and services, social and political stability, and a strong tradition in the rule of law.
- Maxwell Chambers now becomes another important piece in this overall matrix. I wish to thank all those who have worked tirelessly to bring the project to fruition. I have every confidence that it will play a central role in our efforts to develop Singapore as a key international arbitration destination.
- Thank you.
Last updated on 26 Nov 2012