The President's Column


December 2019

December is upon us. It is a fitting time to look back at what 2019 has brought us.

On 26 Nov 2019, we launched the Singapore Arbitration Journal, a joint initiative with the Singapore Academy of Law. Members will all receive complimentary copies. I would like to congratulate the General Editor Mohan Pillay, Editor Chan Leng Sun SC and Publishing Editor Yeo Boon Tat for seeing this vision through from conception to delivery. We are also very grateful to the advisory board of VK Rajah SC, Toby Landau QC, Loretta Malintoppi and Prof Lawrence Boo for taking time to guide us. Not to be forgotten are the invaluable team of Assistant Editors, Ramandeep Kaur, Matthew Koh, Janice Lee, Mahesh Rai, Tan Hai Song, Benjamin Tham, and Derric Yeoh. The aspiration behind the journal was to produce a world class platform for thought leadership on global arbitration issues yet with a Singapore focus. I believe we have achieved that with this first issue and work is already underway to continue this. I hope the journal inspires you to consider making future contributions.

This year we also launched the SIArb Annual Lecture. We were very privileged to have Toby Landau QC with us to speak on “Arbitral Groundhog Day: The Problem of Repeat Claims and Issues in Arbitration”. I understand that Toby will be publishing a paper on this in the next edition of the Singapore Arbitration Journal so we look forward to that.

7 August 2019 will be a day etched forever in our memories. The Singapore Mediation Convention progressed from a dream to reality. Singapore now offers a tripartite solution for dispute resolution through International Arbitration, Mediation and the SICC. Some may be concerned about competition from within. I however believe these 3 offerings complement each other and provide end users a choice which hopefully leads them to Singapore. Competition if any can only be good as we strive to constantly improve and innovate.

The Queen Mary survey results on International Arbitration was released in March this year. Congratulations are in order for SIAC who were ranked the 3rd most preferred arbitral institution in the world. Singapore was ranked the third most preferred seat in the world and the top seat in Asia. The Singapore brand of arbitration excellence is certainly making its mark and we at SIArb must also play our part in ensuring its continued success. One issue that we will continue to raise is ethics in international arbitration. This is the subject of a paper by Michael Hwang SC and Adriana Uson in the journal and I urge you all to reflect on the issues and proposals made. We had kicked off 2019 with a panel session chaired by Leng Sun on the issue of ethics and got to hear views from VK Rajah, Gary Born, Michael Hwang and Professor Lucy Reed. I believe that ethics is the foundation for legal practice. If we lose focus on ethics, we are at risk of losing our status as professionals. The lack of a consistent and uniform enforceable ethical standard is a concern we must pay attention to. SIArb remains committed to widening this conversation.

It remains for me to congratulate our Council members and Committee chairs for all the excellent work they have done. I wish all members a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Dinesh Dhillon
SIArb 2017-2021


September 2019

7 August 2019 will be a day etched in the memories of the Singapore legal community for years to come. The Singapore Mediation Convention progressed from a dream to a reality. 46 countries signed the Convention in Singapore on this historic day. Credit must go to all involved, particularly the Ministry of Law. I had the privilege of serving as a host to delegates and they were full of praise for Singapore.

Singapore now has a tripartite solution for international disputes. International Arbitration, International Mediation and International Litigation (through the SICC). End users have the benefit of choice and flexibility to utilise the most appropriate dispute resolution mechanism. Any “competition” between the tripartite offering can only be a good thing as standards and processes are constantly improved. Singapore has adopted a transnational approach for the various rules and processes, wherein best practices from both civil and common law traditions are reflected.

At the opening of Maxwell Suites on 8 August 2019, Minister of Law, K Shanmugam said that his Ministry would be reviewing whether conditional fee arrangements should be allowed. This is a welcome move that will enhance Singapore’s status as one of the Premier international arbitration destinations in the world. It will give multinational corporations an added option as regards fee arrangements so as to better manage risks allocation and access to justice. It will also benefit Singapore Lawyers who would be otherwise handicapped in the international arbitration arena by being unable to offer clients a conditional fee arrangement that is permitted in other leading arbitral seats such as London and Paris.

Some may wonder why conditional fee agreements are necessary since third party funding (TPF) is already allowed for international arbitration. A TPF arrangement is purely between two independent commercial entities. A TPF provides funding for the legal costs in exchange for a share in the damages that may be awarded. Such arrangements should not be undertaken by lawyers as they may run afoul of ethical issues relating to champerty or overcharging. It bears noting that the area for consideration by the Ministry of Law is conditional fee agreements as opposed to contingency fee arrangements. The latter would allow lawyers to take a share of the damages, hence raising ethical concerns. Conditional fee arrangements permit the lawyer to recover fees based on usual hourly rates plus an uplift or success fee only in the event they win. In Australia, the uplift is capped at 25%.

I am looking forward to our Annual Symposium at the iconic Old Parliament House on 26 November 2019 and our Annual Dinner on 27 November 2019. I hope to see you there.

Dinesh Dhillon
SIArb 2017-2019


March 2019

It has been an eventful start for the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators (SIArb) for 2019.

In 2018, SIArb launched the Guidelines on Party-Representative Ethics (“Guidelines”). It was thus timely that the year kicked off with a discussion on the issue of party representative ethics on 24 Jan 2019. Are such guidelines of any real value? What practical steps could be taken to ensure that such guidelines are effective. It was a robust discussion chaired by Chan Leng Sun SC, with valuable insights from Mr Gary Born, Michael Hwang SC, Professor Lucy Reed and VK Rajah SC. The global diversity of standards and the lack of any common regulator emerged as a key obstacle to a clear pathway forward. My own takeaway is that the existence of challenging obstacles must not deter us. Ethics is ultimately fundamental integrity, which is foundational to international arbitration. SIArb is committed to working with our members, arbitral institutions, bar associations and end-users towards always raising the bar on the issue of ethics. It is when we suddenly find ourselves thinking that ethics is not important or beyond control that we would be too far down the slippery slope.

Professor Lawrence Boo’s talk on developments in Singapore Arbitration law has become a staple in the SIArb calendar. As always, the talk (Chaired by Mr Francis Goh) was very well received. On 12 Feb 2019, Professor Boo shared the stage with Ms Christine Artero and together they provided insightful views on the arbitration related decisions that had emanated from the Singapore Courts in 2018. 2018 saw 4 applications to set aside arbitral awards, 2 applications to review the arbitral tribunal’s jurisdiction and several stay applications.

Just around the corner is SIArb’s Inaugural Lecture on 28 March 2019. We are privileged to have Toby Landau QC speak to us on: Arbitral Groundhog Day: The Problem of Repeat Claims and Issues in Arbitration. As at the time of this message, the venue is 90% full so do register right away to save your seat.

SIArb has also seen increasing regional interest in our training programs. In recent years, we have conducted training seminars for a visiting delegation from Russia and also in Qatar. We will be conducting a 2 day training program on international commercial arbitration with the Japanese Association of Arbitrators (“JAA”). We have also been invited to propose a training program for Oman. We will continue to build meaningful ties within the region.

May I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (“SIAC”) on its excellent results announced on 6 March 2019. In 2018, SIAC was ranked the 3rd most preferred arbitral institution in the world by the prestigious Queen Mary University of London and White & Case International Arbitration Survey. The survey findings show that SIAC is the most preferred arbitral institution based in Asia. The “Singapore” brand of arbitration excellence is certainly making its mark and SIArb will continue to play its part to ensuring its continued success.

Dinesh Dhillon
SIArb 2017-2019



2018 has been a significant year for Arbitration in Singapore and for the SIArb. It is an opportune time to take stock and look ahead to 2019.

SIArb celebrated its 37th Anniversary with a fabulous dinner on 14th November at Aura, National Gallery. We thank our Guest of Honour, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, Mr Edwin Tong SC, for his insights on Singapore’s role in an ever changing global economic landscape. I encourage members who missed the dinner to read his full speech  HERE.

We also just concluded the 10th SIArb Symposium on 15th November which has now become synonymous with the iconic Old Parliament House. It was a lively house filled with much discussion, enthusiasm and passion for cutting edge issues in international arbitration. The Symposium has developed into a key platform for showcasing thought leadership and kudos must go to Vice President Tay Yu-Jin and his committee on the excellent event.

Singapore continues to climb the league ladder in the International Arbitration “Champions League”. The latest Queen Mary University of London Survey released on 9 May 2018 reported that Singapore is the third most preferred seat worldwide, after London and Paris, and ahead of Hong Kong, Geneva, New York and Stockholm. This is a significant achievement but we certainly cannot afford to rest on our laurels. With such a position, expectations will increase and Singapore must step up to play its part in terms of thought leadership in the global international arbitration space. SIArb will continue to play its role through our training programs. We recently worked with the Singapore Academy of Law (“SAL”) on a training program for budding arbitrators in Qatar. We are also particularly excited about the Singapore Arbitration Journal which will be launched in 2019.

SIArb on 28 April 2018 issued the Guidelines on Party Representative Ethics to distil the overarching principle that Party Representatives, in advising, and representing their client, should at all times act with honesty, integrity and professionalism, both with respect to their client and the Tribunal. Credit must go to the Working Group comprising Chan Leng Sun SC, Mohan Pillay, Rian Mathews and Adriana Uson.

Parliament on 9 Jan 2018 passed a bill that paves the way for the Singapore International Commercial Court (‘SICC”) to hear matters under the International Arbitration Act (“IAA”). With effect from 1 Nov 2018, the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 2018, in Section 18D (2) that “The Singapore International Commercial Court (being a division of the High Court) has jurisdiction to hear any proceedings relating to international commercial arbitration that the High Court may hear…” This is a positive step that provides end users access to an international bench of top Judges to hear matters under the IAA. Some may question whether the SICC is competing with International Arbitration stakeholders in terms of the substantive disputes it hears. I am of the view that the SICC complements and in fact further promotes Singapore as a choice venue for international dispute resolution. The success of the London Commercial Court has in no way prevented London from being the leading seat in international arbitration. I believe that the presence of the SICC as a “competing” option only serves to make us ensure that the arbitration offering in Singapore is the very best. Furthermore, the reality is there will always be end users who may prefer a court option as opposed to arbitration. Hence, the SICC is integral to Singapore’s development as a world class dispute resolution hub as end-users know that this avenue is available in Singapore.

Finally, I am happy to introduce you the new Chairs of the various SIArb Committees:

Mr Andrew Pullen
Arbitration Bar
Mr Tay Yu-Jin
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Mr Francis Goh
Education & Training
Mr Chia Chor Leong
Publications & Website
Mr Yeo Boon Tat
Mr Tay Yu Jin
Panel Arbitrators Review
Mr Chia Ho Choon
Scheme Arbitration
Mr Chia Chor Leong

I encourage all members to participate in the numerous projects and programmes of SIArb, whether as Committee members or on ad hoc basis.

I wish all of you the very best wishes for this holiday season and the very best for 2019.

Dinesh Dhillon
SIArb 2017-2019


JUNE 2018

As at the time of my writing this, it is back on again! I am talking about the much anticipated meeting between President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. Regardless of whether or not the meeting actually takes place, the choice of Singapore as the venue is worth reflecting on. Why is this relevant to international arbitration? I believe the factors that led to Singapore being chosen for this historic meeting is a reflection of the Singapore brand values that have shaped Singapore into being leading seat for global dispute resolution. Singapore was chosen because of its neutrality, safety, reliability, integrity, efficiency, excellence and openness. Singapore’s commitment to being a good host is further reflected by Minister of Defence, Ng Eng Hen’s stating that Singapore will willingly bear some of the costs of the planned summit.

It is such commitment to these Singapore “brand values” that will ensure Singapore keeps making strides in international arbitration. At the recently concluded SIAC Congress, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon mentioned that one of the challenges was to ensure a constant pipeline of trained and future-ready practitioners. SIArb will continue to play its part through its membership and fellowship programs. We will review our curriculum to ensure it is world class. In this regard, we welcome input and feedback from you, our members – let us know what you think can be done better or differently and we will be committed to considering all options.

It is already June and another World Cup is upon us. We have had the good wisdom not to compete with FIFA for your attention so our next event is the Focus on Commodities, Minerals and Energy Arbitration on 26 July which will feature a panel discussion with International Arbitration lawyer, Joseph Lopez and Ben Lawson, the COO of PT Sanaman Coal International. Following this, we will have a session on Maritime Arbitration featuring talks by Andrew Moran QC and Prem Gurbani. Also, don’t miss out on our Annual Dinner on 14 November 2018 at Aura. We have just confirmed incoming Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, Mr Edwin Tong as our guest of honour.

Another date you should mark on your diary is 28 November when Jakarta will be hosting the Regional Arbitral Institutes Forum (“RAIF”). SIArb is a member of RAIF and I strongly encourage members to attend as it is a great opportunity to strengthen relationships with our regional partners and learn more about international arbitration in our region. We will provide information to members as it becomes available.

Here’s to wishing and hoping for a successful outcome to the Trump-Kim summit, an outcome that will promote greater peace and prosperity for Asia and particularly for the North Korean people.

Dinesh Dhillon
SIArb 2017-2019

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