The present government which is keen on receiving direct foreign investments for the country, took a very positive step in this connection by establishing an international Arbitration Centre, at the World Trade Centre.
It was launched under the name and style, Colombo International Arbitration Centre The setting of this centre, was given a wide coverage through the print and electronic media.
The intention of establishing this centre was to encourage the investors who may have various disputes with the local collaborators to seek immediate remedies for their grievances. There are instances where local collaborators have misled foreign investors and the final result being the foreign investors bid farewell to Sri Lanka even after losing much money and time. The court procedures in these matters take a very long time and foreign investors are reluctant to get involved in rigid court procedures as these measures hinder their movements. As a result of these obstacles some of the investors have left the island and if this trend continues, it will finally discourage probable foreign investors.
Although, the decision to establish an International Arbitration is a laudable idea and several months have passed since the first announcement, nothing has been done to implement this project. It was announced that this office will function on the 22nd floor of the World Trade Centre with a well trained staff and it will function, under the purview of the Ministry of Justice. However, our inquiries have revealed that this office is not functioning now. For all practical purpose, it is closed now.
To encourage direct foreign investors, the country is in need of a device like this. The smooth functioning of this project will enhance investor’s confidence in our business affairs. If this is closed for unknown reasons, it is really a sad state of affairs.
Therefore, we call upon all responsible authorities, specially the Ministry of Finance to look into this matter immediately and to take positive steps in the right direction. The opening of this office, with a well trained staff should be expedited.
In developed countries of the world, international arbitration centres have been effectively established to handle matters of disputes. The American Arbitration Association, International Centre for Dispute Resolution, the London Court of International Arbitration and the Hong-Kong International Arbitration Centre are some of the few which take up cases on behalf of foreign investors.
(The writer is the CEO of Tourism Planning & Research Institute)