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BVI arbitration not viable – Jamaica’s arbitration leader

Secretary General of the Jamaica International Arbitration Centre Limited, Dr Christopher Malcolm

Despite the British Virgin Islands (BVI) spending big bucks to establish an international arbitration centre, a number of people are ignoring the territory, and are instead calling on Jamaica that is still lagging behind the BVI as it relates establishing itself in the industry.

That declaration has come from Secretary General of the Jamaica International Arbitration Centre Limited, Dr Christopher Malcolm, who served previously as an Attorney General in the BVI.

Here in the BVI, the Arbitration Act (2013) came into effect on October 1, 2014. But the territory’s arbitration centre was not opened until November last year.

Up to three month ago, it had not received any arbitration case – something that the BVI said is not unusual for starters in the industry.

Jamaica, in the meantime, passed its Arbitration Bill in April. The Bill seeks to provide an effective non-judicial mechanism for settling disputes between contracting parties.

The Bill, which is intended to repeal and replace the 1900 Arbitration Act in Jamaica, also seeks to facilitate domestic and international trade and commerce by encouraging the use of arbitration as a method of resolving disputes.

During a forum hosted recently by the Jamaica Observer newspaper, Dr Malcom stated that Jamaica is now poised to become the leading Caribbean country as it relates to arbitration.

“Once we get it right, we are going to generate income from it. We are not trying to reinvent anything. All we are saying is that, in the Caribbean region right now, there is no viable centre that has been established…”

“What we can do is to recognise that there are a number of people who are jockeying for that space. But, with all the money that BVI has spent, we are still at a point where people are calling us and are ignoring BVI, because people have seen the space,” Dr Christopher Malcolm further told the Jamaica Observer ahead of a conference being held in Jamaica, with endorsement from the International Court of Arbitration.

Dr Malcolm is also insisting that Jamaica has the most modern arbitration legislation in the region.

Jamaica’s Arbitration Act is based on the guidelines of the Model Law published by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

It will operate in conjunction with the provisions of the Arbitration (Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Awards) Act, as well as the Investment Disputes Awards (Enforcement) Act.

With the passage of the Bill, Jamaica joins a large number of countries that have adopted the Model Law and, as such, will benefit from the internationally agreed best practices that are disseminated and promoted by UNCITRAL on an ongoing basis.

The Opposition spokesman on Justice in Jamaica, Senator Mark Golding, lauded Dr Malcolm for his leadership of the country’s arbitration thrust, adding that he too has great expectations.

“The initiative, which has been started at the UWI, and with Chris’s leadership – I have a lot of optimism that it is going to be successful, because he is driving it and he has a good network of international contacts that he is leveraging to make sure [it succeeds] and we have the law,” Senator Golding told the Observer.

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