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Guyana turns to ex-Belizean judge to update arbitration laws and procedures

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Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2020. 2:27 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Retired former Supreme Court Justice of Belize and native of Guyana, Courtney Abel, is bringing his expertise in arbitration and dispute resolution to his native country with its Government’s approval, the Guyana Chronicle writes via the Daily Herald.

Among his many accomplishments as a legal practitioner in the Caribbean, Justice Abel was instrumental in the drafting of the Arbitration Act and Arbitration Rules of Belize and was the Chairperson for the Belize Court-Connected Mediation and Arbitration Programme under the tenure of fellow Guyanese and retired Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin.

Now he has been asked by Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, to undertake the task of upgrading Guyana’s existing arbitration legislation and make recommendations on developing the country into an arbitration empire.

Arbitration is a form of an alternative method of dispute resolution (ADR). It is a private procedure, whereby parties involved in a dispute, submit the dispute to one or more arbitrators, mutually agreed upon, and the arbitrator makes a legally binding decision on the matter. Because of the adversarial nature of the court system, it is usually a last resort option for the commercial industry and arbitration is extensively preferred, due to its confidential and time-saving nature.

Justice Abel will review all of Guyana’s existing laws and regulations in the subject area and make appropriate recommendations for the repeal, reform and passing of new laws. He has so far recommended that Guyana sign onto and ratify into its domestic jurisdiction, The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (1985); the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention); the Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (Panama Convention); and the United States Bilateral Investment Treaty (USBIT).

The implementation of the recommendations will be the first part of Guyana stepping onto the world stage and becoming up to par with international arbitration arrangements.

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

Minister Nandlall is of the opinion that the current developments will not only have a monumental impact within the local jurisdiction but will also foster regional and international confidence in Guyana becoming a first-class commercial dispute resolution destination. Previously speaking to the Guyana Chronicle on November 18, Nandlall indicated that “if one is to look at the contracts and the documents emanating from the sector, you will see that there’s a consistent provision for disputes to be resolved by arbitration.” The current domestic legislation to facilitate arbitration is the Arbitration Act 1919, with minor amendments.

As a result of this archaic law, investors are deterred to undertake methods of alternative dispute resolution within Guyana. The attorney general previously expressed to this publication that, that is not conducive to Guyana’s growth and development and there is a wealth of opportunities associated with this being facilitated locally.

 

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