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Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon elected President of ASEAN Law Association at 13th General Assembly

ASEAN Law Association



28 July 2018 – Singapore’s Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon has been elected President of the ASEAN Law Association (“ALA”) at elections held at the closing of its 13th General Assembly. He will helm ALA, a non-governmental organisation that unites legal professionals across ASEAN, for a term of three years.

2. The ALA President holds office until the election of his successor at the next triennial General Assembly. Chief Justice Menon, who is also Chairman of ALA (Singapore), assumes the post of ALA President from immediate past President Attorney Avelino V Cruz of the Philippines.

3. Chief Justice Menon’s election as ALA President comes at the close of the three-day ASEAN Law Conference. Themed “The Power of ONE: Unlocking Opportunities in ASEAN Through Law”, this was the inaugural ASEAN Law Conference organised in conjunction with a General Assembly of ALA. Addressing the General Assembly after his election, Chief Justice Menon said that he felt privileged to be entrusted with the responsibility of being ALA President, and pledged to do his best. He added that ALA should look forward to harnessing some of the suggestions that had been raised over the course of the Conference, to seek to use ALA as a platform to do good for ASEAN.

4. More than 400 participants and over 50 speakers attended the ASEAN Law Conference to exchange ideas about a variety of legal issues pertaining to the regional bloc. One key topic were the legal opportunities and challenges arising from the ASEAN Economic Community (“AEC”). For instance, greater economic integration will be accompanied by a need for effective competition regulation to ensure a level playing field for businesses. Dr Kodrat Wibowo, Commissioner of Indonesia’s Commission for the Supervision of Business Competition, noted that some of the challenges faced by ASEAN included an imbalanced competition culture among Member States. Mr Toh Han Li, Chief Executive and Commissioner of the Competition Commission of Singapore, and Mr Lim Chong Kin, Director of Drew & Napier LLC, discussed how the ASEAN Competition Enforcers’ Network to be established in the near future could facilitate cooperation, such as by issuing harmonised guidelines to promote consistent enforcement of competition laws, and implementing processes for gathering feedback from businesses across the region.

5. Besides the theme of economic integration, conversations at the Conference also touched on enhancing inter-ASEAN cooperation in legal disputes arising from trade and investment treaties. Mr Cavinder Bull, SC, CEO of Drew & Napier LLC, Singapore, noted that treaty interpretation issues often arise in investor-state disputes, but non-disputing states parties to such treaties are typically not involved in the tribunal or court’s consideration of how the treaty in question should be interpreted. He proposed an inter-state protocol that would facilitate requests for non-disputing states to give their inputs on treaty interpretation in investor-state disputes. The proposed protocol would establish a directory of points of contact among ASEAN Member States to whom such requests should be addressed. Arbitrator and academic, Dr Xuan Hop Dang of Vietnam expressed support for the proposed protocol, recognizing the public interest in non-disputing states having a procedure for providing their inputs on the treaties to which they are party.

6. Another point of discussion were issues arising from disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain. Mr Sriram Raghavan, Chief Technology of IBM Research in India and Singapore, opined that it was crucial to establish the right frameworks and policies to ensure that these technologies were used responsibly, and that this task would require a multi-disciplinary approach. In this regard, Mr Yeong Zee Kin, Assistant Chief Executive (Personal Data Protection Commission) of the Infocomm Media Development Authority, proposed the creation of a research programme that would engage industry, academia and governments, adding that implementing such an initiative at the ASEAN level could be useful in unlocking opportunities in the region.

7. In line with the theme of “The Power of ONE”, a central theme underlying the various sessions of the ASEAN Law Conference was that of legal integration and harmonisation. While the concept of a more fully harmonised “ASEAN Law” still lies in the future, the general consensus was that it was important for ASEAN to push towards this goal in small but significant ways. Chief Justice Menon raised the suggestion of establishing an ALA Moot Competition to sensitise law students to thinking of, and applying, ASEAN Law. Other speakers identified areas such as banking payment systems and digital trade as legal spaces which could benefit from a common regional approach. Many expressed the view that to pave the way for legal convergence, the key was to enhance ASEAN-wide interaction and communication among judges and practitioners.


28 July 2018


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