Arbitration a hard sell to Jamaicans – Chuck
Even though Jamaicans enjoy an impressive track record in conflict resolution using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) strategies, they are yet to be convinced of its effectiveness as an alternative to the well-established courtroom proceedings, Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck disclosed on Thursday. In fact, he admitted that it was a very hard sell to his countrymen.
This disclosure came during Chuck’s address to the investiture ceremony for his long-time friend, John Bassie, who has taken over the reins of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) at the Eon Nigel Council Room, The University of the West Indies, Mona campus regional headquarters.
“When matters are referred to restorative justice, 93 per cent of the cases are settled; and in mediation, the figure is way in excess of 60 per cent. But you still have the challenge of convincing Jamaicans to really settle matters even before they come to court. And I say, John, this is the challenge for you – how do we promote ADR even more? And I say this because people do not see the benefits of using ADR and avoiding court,” the justice minister lamented.
His appeal to Bassie continued: “John, Justice Charmaine Pemberton mentioned (in her videotaped greetings) that Belize is now engaging arbitration as a part of the court system. I hear about this, but I don’t know how it works. I would urge you to let us work with the chief justice and the judges to see how we make arbitration a part of court system, it would help with the disposal of cases.”
However, given the estimated 70,000 cases, on average, which are before the local parish courts, the justice minister was of the view that arbitration would not be appropriate for this setting.
“It’s impossible for judges to deal with all of them, and they are working overtime now to get rid of the backlog,” he admitted.
Despite this, arbitration has a place, especially for resolving commercial disputes, and business operators therefore need to be apprised of the qualified and competent pool of arbitrators available in, and to, Jamaica, Chuck added.
“We need to push ADR, arbitration in particular, to let our commercial entities know that we have trained arbitrators right here in Jamaican and, if needed, can be brought in from abroad. So now, big companies are coming to Jamaica and what is very important is that not only (for) arbitration but, shortly, mediation.”
Importantly, decisions made during arbitration proceedings are legally binding and enforceable in any jurisdiction on the basis of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model, he further disclosed.
The UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, which was adopted in May 1997, was designed to assist states to equip their insolvency laws with a modern legal framework to more effectively address cross-border insolvency proceedings concerning debtors experiencing severe financial distress or insolvency. It focuses on authorising and encouraging cooperation and coordination between jurisdictions, rather than attempting the unification of substantive insolvency law, and respects the differences among national procedural laws.