Guyana gets help from Caribbean judge on updating arbitration laws

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Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall has sought the services of a well-known Caribbean legal practitioner, retired High Court Justice of Belize, Courtney Abel to help with updating Guyana’s outdated arbitration laws.

Following consultations with Justice Abel, a proposal was made and considered to help to promote Guyana as an arbitration hub.

The arbitration proposal, now accepted by the government, is ready for roll-out and will largely be managed by Justice Abel, a Guyanese, with credentials throughout the Caribbean, who has an extensive track record within the Commonwealth Caribbean and Central America.

See full statement from the Attorney General Chambers below:

Globally, arbitration is a recognised and accepted form of managing and resolving disputes.

Arbitration is suitable where there is a dispute, especially commercial disagreements. Its advantage is that it is usually private and quick. Persons locked in disputes can by agreement divert their disputes away from the usual and already stretched process of trial by a Judge. The judicial function is outsourced and handled privately by an independent, neutral and impartial trained or experienced third party. The decision of the arbitrator, called the Award, would be enforced by the Court without being subjected, to any of the Court’s constraints of lack of time and resources.

Arbitration is widely regarded as the preferred method and solution to be used, not only for general commercial and international commercial transactions and disputes, but specifically, for the oil and gas industries.

The people of Guyana, in the wake of Guyana’s recent ascent as a major oil and gas producing country, will no doubt support an upgrade of its outdated local arbitration laws, to fit in with international best arbitration practices.

His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, the President of Guyana, and the Government of Guyana, fully supports an upgrade.

The Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Mr. Mohabir Anil Nandlall SC MP, has sought the advice and services of a well-known Caribbean legal practitioner, legal luminary, arbitrator and legal consultant, retired High Court Justice of Belize, Courtney Abel.

Following consultations with him a proposal was made and considered to help to promote Guyana as an arbitration hub by facilitating and further developing and upgrading its local arbitration law and practice.

This arbitration proposal, now accepted by Government, is ready for roll-out and will largely be managed by Justice Abel, a Guyanese, with credentials throughout the Caribbean, who has an extensive track record within the Commonwealth Caribbean and Central America.

Justice Abel is now engaged as a Consultant to upgrade Guyana’s existing laws and to make recommendations to the Government of Guyana as to how it could denvelop and otherwise improve its local arbitration footprint, its training protocols and programs to establish and maintain a high, international, standard of best arbitration practice.

Justice Abel says that “he very much hopes by his involvement in, what for him is a grand idea for Guyana’s development, that he would be able to build confidence in international investors that Guyana is a competent, gold standard arbitration venue; a regional arbitration hub or centre and a commercial gateway to South America, from within the Caribbean”.

The Consultant has already recommended that Guyana signs onto, ratifies, and where appropriate pass into its local laws the following International arbitration treaties:

(a)          UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (1985), with amendments as adopted in 2006

(b)          United Nation Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention)

(c)           Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (Panama Convention)

(d)          United States Bilateral Investment Treaty (USBIT)

The Consultant’s proposal will also review all of Guyana’s laws and rules as they will affect Guyana’s ability to achieve its objective of establishing Guyana as a reputable arbitration centre. He will make appropriate recommendations for repeal and the passing of new arbitration related laws and propose a wholly new administrative and infrastructural arrangement.

The Consultant will then provide any necessary support and assistance to the Minister of Legal Affairs in piloting the new arrangement through its constitutional, administrative and other legal arrangement to ratification and/or enactment and implementation.

It is recognised by both the Minister of Legal Affairs and Justice Abel that the public must be kept fully informed of the whole proposed arrangement and as this move towards arbitration advances. It is also recognised that the public, including court users, parties to disputes, court officers and administrators as well as businesses, would benefit from continuous sensitization by way of public education, as to the customs and practices of arbitration.

Local and international businesses, operating in Guyana, will also need to be informed of the benefits and importance of developing international (even global) commercial arbitration customs and practices.

Minister Nandlall anticipates that the present development will not only have a positive, if not ground-breaking, impact on the commercial life of Guyana, but will also set, in place, long-lasting changes in the legal culture as it relates to civil and commercial litigation within the length and breadth of Guyana. He also hopes that by implementing the present proposal local regional and international confidence will also be inspired in Guyana as being a first-class place of commercial dispute resolution.

In April 2018, while a sitting High Court Judge, Justice Abel in Guyana made a presentation to a wide cross-section of persons attending an arbitration Forum, on Judicial Support for Arbitration. He and the Minister are very much aware that the support of Judicial Officers within Guyana, will have to be sought and obtained for both the local and international component of the proposed arbitration developments.

It is proposed, by way of stake-holder participation and engagement, that the Ministry of Legal Affairs will shortly hold a webinar. Information of the Webinar will be published shortly.

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