– Over 400 participants including members of the legal industry, mediators, civil servants, entrepreneurs and students attended the inaugural Singapore Mediation Lecture delivered by former President of the Republic of Singapore, Mr S R Nathan at the Supreme Court Auditorium today
Drawing on his experiences as a Seamen’s Welfare Officer in the Marine Department in the 1950s and later in NTUC’s Labour Research Unit in the 1960s, Mr Nathan recollected how he acted as an intermediary between workers and employers in disputes ranging from working conditions to disciplinary issues. He called himself an “accidental mediator.” “I became one out of need, demonstrating my abilities and establishing my credibility along the way.”
Mr Nathan also played a key role in negotiating the release of the crew in a hijacked ferry in the LAJU incident when he was Director of the Security and Intelligence Division in late 1974. He shared lessons about how understanding people, is an important skill in resolving conflicts.
Mediation is a process in which a mediator (the third party neutral), without imposing a decision, assists parties to resolve their differences amicably.
Mr Harry Elias, SC (founder of Harry Elias Partnership LLP) chaired the panel discussion after the Lecture. The panellists included international commercial mediators from Singapore and overseas: Mr George Lim, SC (Partner at Wee Tay & Lim LLP), Mr Danny McFadden (Director of the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution who is based in Hong Kong) and Mr Geoff Sharp (a commercial mediator in New Zealand).
The Singapore Mediation Lecture is presented by Harry Elias Partnership LLP (HEP) and the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC), in collaboration with the Singapore Management University (SMU). The Lecture series will be held annually with the aim to enhance the understanding and use of mediation in resolving cross-border commercial disputes.
“Mediation is one of our key focus areas in resolving legal disputes”, said Mr Philip Fong, Managing Partner of HEP. “We are pleased to share our experience on mediation and contribute to the mediation landscape in Singapore. It has been said: ‘The courtroom should not be the place where resolution of disputes begins. It should be the place where the disputes end after alternative methods of resolving disputes have been considered and tried.’ We hope that this inaugural Lecture Series will encourage more disputes being mediated, and inspire more community leaders as well as experienced professionals to step forward and be mediators.”
Mr Loong Seng Onn, Executive Director of SMC, said “Disputants are increasingly turning to Singapore for mediation services even when they are not based here. For instance, there was a fairly recent multi-million dollar dispute in which two parties from Australia mediated their case under the auspices of SMC. As Singapore becomes a more attractive venue for international dispute resolution, we hope that the experiences shared in this Lecture will be invaluable for all those who are interested in becoming a successful mediator and learning the art of being ‘the-man-in-the-middle’.”
SMC has a proven track record of handling mediation cases involving commercial disputes cumulatively amounting to about SGD 3 billion. SMC has a settlement rate of 75%. More than 90% of cases that settle are concluded within a day.
“Greater complexity and sophistication in the business sector has brought about an increased demand for dispute resolution mechanisms and talents. Singapore’s sound legal infrastructure and well-developed institutions in mediation and arbitration has earned us strong footing as a preferred forum for dispute resolution in the region. SMU is proud to partner HEP and SMC in this Lecture series, with which we expect to further boost Singapore’s profile as a commercial mediation venue in the region,” said Practice Associate Professor of Law Ian Macduff, Director of the Centre for Dispute Resolution at SMU.
Harry Elias Partnership LLP is a multidisciplinary legal practice that was established in 1988 by Mr Harry Elias, Senior Counsel. Apart from offering focused and proactive advice within the larger framework of strategy and business objectives to its highly diversified clientele, it is a firm that has been on the cutting edge of legal changes, bringing about cases that were first to break new ground, and resulting in watershed judicial decisions. A firm that has been understandably referred to as A Practice of Firsts.
Established in 1997, the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) has become synonymous with excellence in mediation services for the resolution of commercial disputes. It has also established a reputation for providing training in mediation and negotiation that is of the highest standard in Singapore and in the region. SMC enjoys the full support of the Supreme Court and the Subordinate Courts of Singapore. It continues to build relations with the legal and business community as well as promote mediation to the general public.
Located within the SMU School of Law, the SMU Centre for Dispute Resolution was established in late 2008 to provide a vehicle for research and teaching across the range of ‘alternative’ dispute resolution procedures. One of the Centre’s mandates is to foster research and teaching activities across all the Schools and Departments at SMU in the area of dispute resolution. The Centre also builds on the experience already gained both within the judicial system and in the wider community in the use of mediation and non-judicial processes, as well as the long and diverse traditions of mediation in all countries of the region. In addition to research and teaching, the Centre collaborates with university, professional, governmental, non-governmental and inter-governmental agencies in the promotion of effective, collaborative forms of dispute resolution and access to justice. In this respect, the Centre hosts public lectures, seminars and conferences. The Centre also works with those same agencies in building local capacity in dispute management.