A Proposal of Mediation is a Sign of Strength: Bazul Ashhab

Posted in Insights October 4, 2021

Mr Bazul Ashhab, Managing Partner of Oon & Bazul and SIMC Specialist Mediator reflects on the history dispute resolution, and dispels myths about mediation. He illustrates the power of mediation through a case he acted as advocate.

All views expressed are personal to Bazul. We are grateful to Bazul for sharing his time with us.

Watch the full interview here or read the full transcript below.

“When I speak to my clients and propose mediation, I say to my clients that a proposal of mediation actually is a sign of strength.”

Bazul Ashhab, Managing Partner, Oon & Bazul

My name is Bazul. I’m from Oon & Bazul. I head their dispute resolution practice, which includes arbitration, litigation and mediation.

The dispute resolution scene in Singapore, over the course of 18 years, has also changed significantly. When I first started as a lawyer, the concept of mediation was truly alien. People don’t talk about mediation at that time.

The misconceptions were:

  1. A mediation may be used as a delay tactic.
  2. Mediation would be used to extract information unfairly, which a party is not entitled to.
  3. Mediation is a sign of weakness.

Over the years, these misconceptions have been properly addressed. Firstly, with counsels, especially in cross border dispute resolution space, accepting mediation and recognizing that it has a place to resolve dispute. They are able to assure their clients that mediation will not delay the process. The question of getting information unfairly: when you have good counsels, that is not going to happen because counsel will be able to stop someone from extracting information unfairly, or what he’s not entitled to. Perception of weakness: Again, with counsels, especially those who practise cross border, they are now buying into the idea that the person who proposes mediation first is not displaying a sign of weakness. In fact, when I speak to my clients and propose mediation, I say to my clients that a proposal of mediation actually is a sign of strength because whenever you mediate, whenever you negotiate, it’s best that you negotiate from a position of strength, rather than a position of weakness.

There was a high court dispute we were involved in. And there were serious allegations about my client’s conduct. And in fact, there was a police report made as well. Although these allegations were entirely false and were placed by the opposite side as a pressure tactic. My clients were confident that the matter would go on, they will be able to dismiss these allegations.

We mediated, and through the mediation, we extracted an apology, we got an agreement from the other side, to withdraw the police report. And most importantly, for my client, we got the other side to disclose their assets and obtain security.

So I had a client who was extremely pleased with the outcome for mediation because I can tell you for a fact that you will not be able to secure this in court. That’s why mediation is an excellent alternative when you want to get results, which a judge will not be able to give you.

Over the years, there is greater awareness of the need to settle matters outside court, outside arbitration. I see more and more users gaining confidence in using Singapore as a hub for resolving their disputes.

What I think is likely to happen is that mediation is going to be used as a natural course in resolving disputes. SIMC is likely to be used by the users to resolve their disputes.