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Khamis, Jun 20, 2024

4-Continent MOU on Alliance for Mediation Standards signed today

Hadikusumo (centre), flanked by Masidi (2nd left) and Liang, signing the 4-Continent MOU. Looking on are Wong (left) and Liew (right).

KOTA KINABALU: The Asia Mediation Centre (AMC), the first and only centre for dispute resolution and mediation in East Malaysia, has blazed the trail in initiating an international Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) covering four continents for harmonisation of standards and cross-recognition of accreditation.

On Wednesday (April 28), AMC, which is proudly headquartered in Sabah, created history when it signed the MOU on the Alliance for Mediation Standards at the Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa (Star). Members of the Alliance are South America (Brazil), Europe (Portugal and France), Asia (China, Singapore and Malaysia) and Africa (Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau).

The first global multi-party MoU was duly executed between mediation centres in Malaysia, China, Singapore, France and all Lusophone countries, including Brazil and Portugal. They were the International Dispute Resolution and Risk Management Institute (IDRRMI) which has centres located in Hong Kong, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Yiwu and Xi An; Asia Mediation Centre (AMC) which is the first dispute resolution and accreditation centre in East Malaysia; Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI) which is a standards body for mediation supported by the Ministry of Law in Singapore; L’Institut Français de Certification des Médiateurs (IFCM) a premier mediation standards and services centre based in France; and Instituto de Certificação e Formação de Mediadores Lusófonos (ICFML) a well-established mediation institute representing all Portuguese speaking countries in world, including Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau .

Masidi (2nd left) with Hadikusumo (on his left), Wong (left), Liang (2nd right) and Liew (right) at the 4-Continent MOU signing ceremony.

State Minister of Finance II Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Masidi Manjun officiated at the 4-continent MOU signing ceremony which was witnessed by the Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in Kota Kinabalu, His Excellency Mr Liang Caide, former Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri David Wong and President of the Sabah-China Chamber of Commerce (SCCC), Datuk Frankie Liew. Present were Api Api Assemblywoman Datuk Christina Liew, Sabah Law Society (SLS) President Roger Chin and Committee Members , SLS Immediate Past President Datuk Brenndon Soh as well as SCCC Committee Members.

Speaking at the historic event which was telecast live in Sabah, Hong Kong and Singapore, Masidi said the mission of the Ministry of Finance in Sabah is to attain a healthy and stable financial position for the state through prudent financial management and sound investments. 

“One of our objectives as a state must therefore be to create a stable haven for investor confidence and efficient management of commercial disputes. This past year has proven to be difficult for most countries from an investment perspective. However, our collective time in lockdown would not have been in vain, if we spend it in developing and planning strategies to accommodate a re-start of the economy when our doors are open once more,” he said.

Citing the MOU on the Alliance for Mediation Standards as a fine example of innovation, Masidi, who is also Minister of Local Government and Housing, said he was honoured to witness this significant step towards the development of a robust and sophisticated dispute resolution eco-system.

“My heartiest congratulations to the Asia Mediation Centre and its counterpart centres here for achieving this milestone today. I hope the Alliance will continue to grow and evolve as the world prepares to open its doors hopefully soon. 

“This event is particularly noteworthy as it is the first time a Sabah dispute resolution centre has entered into an MOU via live telecast, with centres representing countries from all four continents (Asia, Africa, Europe and South America),” he said.

Masidi stressed that having a network of international mediators and accreditation bodies walking in lock-step with us, means that investors can have the confidence to know they have alternatives to going through a foreign court system or an expensive arbitration. 

The State Finance Minister II concurred that the use of technology and online dispute resolution platforms will be an added advantage to the existing flexibility of mediation while envisioning a future “where we may wish to explore the setting up of a standards body to further enhance the professionalisation of this industry and the protection of end-users.”

He added : “I look forward to discussing the ways in which we can increase our collaboration in this area.”

On the benefits of Mediation, Masidi, a lawyer by training, said this tool is able to combine the advantage of lower costs, faster turnaround times, and party control to provide a pathway towards a resolution. “And with Malaysia’s ratification of the Singapore Convention on the Enforceability of Mediated Settlements (“the Singapore Convention”) on 7 August 2019, we anticipate an escalating demand among business users for an alternative path towards the resolution of business-related conflicts.”    

He stressed that where there is demand, we must be prepared to supply for that demand. Posing the question of how we ensure this supply of mediation services would be of high quality in adherence to global standards, he said : 

“This is why I am appreciative of organisations like the Asia Mediation Centre, the Singapore International Mediation Institute and all the member centres represented here today. 

“You do an important work not only to promote the use of mediation and its advantages among investors, but through the signing of this MOU and the cross-recognition scheme, you have signalled your commitment to upholding high standards of services and professionalisation in the field of mediation.

“I applaud your initiative and dedication to growing your network to continue building standards outside your jurisdiction.”

Masidi said one positive development is that Malaysia’s Covid 19 Act currently provides for mediation to be offered as a means to resolve disputes arising from the impact of the pandemic. Other mediation schemes in Malaysia include court-annexed Mediation; the community mediation led by the Department of National Unity and Integration; and now the rise of private commercial mediation through various centres, including the Asia Mediation Centre right here in Sabah.  

According to him, over the last thirty years, mediation has become increasingly central to Malaysia’s judicial system, and this was enhanced after the Mediation Act was enacted in 2012. 

While conceding that many are familiar with the concept of litigation and arbitration, Masidi noted that mediation is somewhat lesser known among practitioners and business users. “Litigation was the primary mode of dispute resolution for many years until rising costs, longer time spans and greater caseloads put pressure on institutions around the world to look for alternative pathways to conflict resolution.,” he said.

Other guest speakers who spoke in a live telecast comprised Mr. Liu Chunhua (Minister of Legal Department of Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region); Ms. Elsie Leung (former Secretary of Justice of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and former Deputy Director of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee of the National People’s Congress); Professor Dr Francis Law (Chairman of the International Dispute Resolution & Risk Management Institute in China (IDRRMI); Professor Dr  Joel Lee and Mr. Marcus Lim, (Chairman and CEO respectively of the Singapore International Mediation Institute); Ms Ana Maia Goncalves (Founder and President of Instituto de Certificacao e Formacao de Mediadores Lusofonos (ICFML), representing Brazil, Angola, Portugal, Mozambique & Guinea-Bissau,: and Mr Claude Amar (President of the Institut Francais de Certification des Mediateurs (IFCM) in France) via a pre-recorded message.

Earlier, in her address, Founder cum Director of the AMC, Josephine Hadikusumo, who mooted the idea of the Alliance, said this strategic partnership is expected to grow with negotiations ongoing.

The pioneering professional mediator said this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) represents a new chapter in the members’ development as an alliance dedicated to upholding and harmonising standards in the field of mediation. 

“Our hope is that through this alliance, we will be providing quality training standards and mediation services, which will ultimately benefit the end-user.

“Imagine being a Chinese investor in Sabah, and being a party to a transaction involving Singapore, Malaysia and Chinese interests. And now imagine being able to bring any disagreement to the Asia Mediation Centre in Sabah, where you will have the option of having co-mediators from Sabah and China sitting in on the matter live and via our online dispute resolution platform at the same time. 

“You the investor would now be able to bypass weeks of red tape and the stress of going through a foreign court system. After today, you will now also be able to select qualified mediators in any of our partner centres to mediate your matter together with a Sabahan mediator without ever leaving Kota Kinabalu,” Hadikusumo elaborated.

According to her, the Alliance also enables local mediators accredited in any of these partner centres to practise their trade in another country through a partner centre. “As of today, the AMC has trained two batches of mediators who will now be able to practise in Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Brazil or through any of the partner centres if they so choose.”

In retrospect, the mediation trainer and examiner said when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation in December 2018, the world and how we looked at disputes, changed. 

Hadikusumo continued : “Before this, whenever someone had a problem with their business partner or neighbour, the famous phrase to fling at the offending party was ‘I’ll see you in court!’ Somehow, ‘I’ll see you in mediation’ just didn’t have the same ring.

Masidi (5th left) with Hadikusumo (on his left) and others after the 4-Continent MOU signing ceremony. At left is Api Api Assemblywoman Liew

“However, after the Singapore Convention was signed on 7 August 2019, those of us in the field of dispute resolution and others who were end-users sat up and took notice. Because this treaty meant that instead of going to court or arbitration or any one of those more expensive and stressful methods of conflict resolution, there is now a viable and recognised pathway that is faster, less expensive and more flexible.”

But, she pointed out, this of course means there is a need to ensure quality standards exist in this rapidly growing area of conflict resolution. “In an increasingly borderless world of commerce, industry and disputes, we not only need a strong foundation in the professionalisation of mediation practices, but we also need a common understanding of what makes a professional mediator.”

Personally, Hadikusumo feels privileged that her journey in the law has led her back to Sabah to support its growth in the field of mediation while still being able to contribute as a thought partner on the board of SIMI (Singapore International Mediation Institute) and other organisations.

“I would like to especially mention the Sabah Law Society (SLS) and its valiant efforts to promote mediation as a form of dispute resolution here in Sabah. They have done a tremendous job and I am very proud to support their efforts and to work in partnership with like-minded friends in the profession,” enthused the Australian-trained lawyer.