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Commercial Law Forum 2016 - Chief Justice's Welcoming Remarks

​The Honourable Dato Seri Paduka Hj Kifrawi bin Dato Paduka Hj Kifli,
Chief Justice of Brunei Darussalam

COMMERCIAL LAW FORUM – WELCOMING REMARKS
6th September 2016


Introduction

1. The Honourable Attorney General, Honourable Justices and Judges, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Sulong bin Mat Jeraie, President of Brunei Darussalam’s Law Society, His Excellency the High Commissioner, Members of the Bar, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Assalamualaikum and a very good morning.

2. On behalf of the Brunei Judiciary, it is a great pleasure and privilege for me to welcome The Right Honourable Sir Martin James Moore-Bick, Vice President of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales and Mr. Patrick Maddams, Sub-Treasurer of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple.

3. I am delighted to see how both the Brunei Judiciary and the British High Commission have worked hand in hand to make this forum possible. The benefits of the Commercial Law Forum to our legal profession is immense and underscores our country’s long standing relationship with Britain and our shared commitment on the importance of the rule of law.

4. The courts have an active role to play in the development of the law underpinning commerce, finance and industry and the function of the law is provide the framework within which all businesses operate all economic activities. In this respect, it is hoped that the newly established Commercial Court is able to play a significant role in Brunei Darussalam.

5. In an increasingly globalized economy, the provision of an independent justice system is the basis upon which companies decide to do business and enter into agreements. Certainly, it is of primary importance in all commercial transactions that investors’ rights are protected and can be enforced and efficient contract enforcement is crucial for a country’s economic growth and development.

6. Economic progress cannot be realized without respect for the rule of law and the effective protection of rights, both of which require an independent judiciary that administers cases efficiently and is accessible to the public. Indeed, economies with a more efficient judiciary, in which its courts can effectively enforce contractual obligations, have more developed credit markets and a higher level of development overall.

7. It is therefore of utmost importance that the rule of law is upheld and that the necessary dispute resolution mechanisms are put in place to ensure this. Such endeavors cannot be pursued alone and private practitioners and government counsel are central to the development of the Commercial Court in promoting the use of the court as a fast track for resolving commercial disputes. Members of the Bar have the opportunity to support and help attain the country’s economic development goals in their role as facilitators for business clients and by helping produce legal frameworks that such clients require. Indeed, both private practitioners and government counsel are poised to play an important role in supporting the economy by virtue of their legal expertise in providing direct representation and advocacy assistance.

8. It is in the wider interests of the justice system that all actors, from judges, judicial officers, private lawyers and government counsel receive the essential training and experience in dealing with cases of a commercial nature. It is hoped that the quality of Brunei Darussalam’s Commercial Court will be an attraction for trade and investment to this country and enhancing the efficiency of the judicial system as a whole can improve the business climate, foster innovation and attract foreign direct investment.

9. In terms of judges and judicial officers, the necessary training is equally crucial as the decision making process in the courts plays a vitally important role in commercial law. The courts can serve as a model of a way forward in the resolving of disputes, most particularly with the introduction of special procedures in our Commercial Court, namely the Case Management Conference (“CMC”) and option of mediation. The introduction and implementation of such alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) mechanisms can help to enhance private sector development by creating a better environment for business. It may also help lower the direct and indirect costs that businesses incur in enforcing contracts and resolving disputes, including transactional costs that could otherwise divert company resources. ADR can also assist good public sector governance by reducing the backlog of disputes before the courts and improving the efficiency of the court system. On an individual case level, CMCs and mediation can provide redress more inexpensively and quickly than mainstream court processes.

10. In recent years, mediation has been increasingly advocated as a tool in dispute resolution. It has emerged as perhaps the most predominant ADR process used in many common law jurisdictions and in terms of our Commercial Court, mediation is the first step that parties should consider when in filing a claim. Court annexed mediation for commercial disputes means that if both parties agree, cases will go through the mediation process before designated judicial officers. The effectiveness of mediation rests heavily on the mediators and I am pleased to announce that as of April 2016, two Judicial Officers are now accredited associate mediators with the Singapore Mediation Centre. It is hoped that the next group of Judicial Officers will become accredited mediators by the end of the year.

11. Special rules and procedures are also now in place for Commercial Court cases which include prioritizing the signing of writs and registrars giving priority for interlocutory matters. In terms of the Case Management Conference (“CMC”), Registrars will fix CMCs as part of the Pre-Trial Conference (“PTC”) in order to fix case management directions and if necessary, review parties’ compliance with directions leading up to trial.

12. It is hoped that the new Commercial Court will grow and develop to be a centre for litigation excellence. There is much to learn from the experiences of England and Wales in their Commercial Court and through this workshop we will take what we can from their strengths and best practices and learn from whatever problems arose and how they best dealt with them. Through more training and experience, we endeavor to provide a high standard of commercial litigation through the services of our courts, the Bar and the legal profession. The establishment of such a Commercial Court was to allow the country to better serve the business community and we hope that in offering alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and facilities such as the CMC and option of mediation that this will ensure the expeditious resolution of disputes.

13. We also have, exemplified by today’s attendance, the excellent interaction that exists between the judiciary, the Bar and the Attorney General’s Chambers. The Commercial Law Forum gives emphasis to the commitment of Brunei Darussalam’s legal fraternity in upholding the rule of law and its aspiration to become a centre for commercial litigation excellence.

14. I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to The Right Honourable Sir Martin James Moore-Bick, Mr. Patrick Maddams, the British High Commission and all of the Officers and Staff of the Judiciary involved for their hard work in ensuring the success and smooth running of the forum.

15. With the kalimah Bismillahirrahmannirrahim I now formally open the Commercial Law Forum.

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