The IBA Arb40 Subcommittee launched a competition to compile and publish poignant stories from this period, forming a distinctive compendium of shared experiences. Exploring the depths of the international arbitration community, the IBA Arb40 Common Heritage of International Arbitration Competition for the Most Meaningful Personal Stories unfolds a tapestry of diverse narratives.
Spanning the globe, these stories capture the human side of international arbitration, showcasing triumphs, challenges, and the interconnectedness that defines our professional journey. Each article in this collection offers a unique lens into our Common Heritage of International Arbitration, underscoring the significance of camaraderie, mentorship, and shared experiences within our global community.
The following article emerged as an overall winner of the competition.
My father was not particularly “tech-savvy”. As a middle-aged man, he was quite stereotypical – he put his phone too close to his face during video calls; communicated by phone calls, sometimes in speaker mode; and struggled with gadgets. And, as a law firm partner, he still asked for any advice that was to be signed by him to be printed on paper, which he would then review with a pencil. He would scribble revisions on the paper’s margins. Not environmentally sustainable, admittedly, but that was the olden way; that was his way. It was thus ironically apt, that he became the arbitrator to hold one of the first–if not the very first–virtual arbitration proceedings in Indonesia back in 2020.
My father was a lawyer specialising in, among others, arbitration. Indeed, his law firm in Indonesia had vast experience in arbitration. After graduating from law school years ago, I myself began my career in his firm.
My father was a listed arbitrator on the panels of several arbitral institutions. One was BAPMI, Indonesia’s capital market-specialised institution. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, many arbitral institutions halted their operations. It took time to get used to the new normal: installing virtual platforms, familiarising ourselves with work-from-home, practicing safe distance, etc.
In mid-2020, my father was appointed as the presiding arbitrator in a BAPMI case. At the time, there were not any professional virtual hearing service providers available. And even if there were, such services could be quite costly. While other bigger institutions might easily afford it, a sectoral institution with a more niche market would have found it more difficult to access those services. Hence, the case management had to be fully handled by the arbitrators themselves. I was asked to assist as well, as the tribunal secretary. For a sectoral arbitral institution, every little bit helps.
Thus, it became my task to arrange virtual hearings for my father. I prepared the virtual hearing toolkit in the living room of my father’s house. Laptops, a 360° camera, microphones, speakers, and perhaps most importantly, a portable internet router. Yes, the house itself had Wi-Fi, but with that connection shared by six people–my mother and three siblings were all doing either work/school-from-home–it would have been a risky approach.
And of course, I had to teach my father how to “Zoom”. To teach someone elderly how to speak directly into the microphone; how to remind them consistently to unmute before speaking, and mute again after; how to explain to them we did not have control over the connection stability-the struggle was real. Oh, the daggers he stared at me every time the video lagged even for a little bit.
Eventually, though, he got used to it. The case went on with minimal fuss and he was even appointed for more cases subsequently. And all were held fully remotely, even when the pandemic cooled down a bit. There was talk of having an offline hearing, at least for the more complicated stage like cross-examination. However, because my father was elderly with comorbidity in the form of chronic blood cancer, it would still have been too great a risk.
Over the course of mid-2020 until early 2021, my father presided over another three arbitration cases. The last of those ended in June 2021. In the following month, the Delta variant of the Coronavirus created havoc across the country, resulting in what probably was the worst period in Jakarta during the whole pandemic. Level 4 – the highest on the spectrum – was announced at that time.
My father was one of the millions that contracted the virus during that period; but unlike many luckier ones, he was not able to recover. The blood cancer he had struggled with for over a decade, amplified by the virus, was ultimately too much for him. On 6 July 2021, he passed peacefully in his sleep.
Being an arbitrator was one of the proudest achievements of my father’s career, so he told me numerous times. To be given the parties’ trust to examine and decide their disputes; it was never something he took lightly. Integrity, a sense of justice, and honesty. Those are the paramount qualities essential for an arbitrator, completed only with the expertise required and mastery of procedural laws.
Looking back, in this young arbitration career that I have had, in those few months, in those few cases where I was the secretary to the tribunals over which my own father presided – those were the most perfect days I have ever had.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kiki is the newest and youngest partner of KarimSyah Law Firm. His primary interest lies in dispute resolution, both in litigation and arbitration. He has been actively involved in arbitrations before many different arbitral institutions, such as SIAC, ICC, AAA-ICDR, BANI, BAKTI, BAPMI, and LAPS-SJK. In his spare time, Kiki frequently coaches mooting teams from universities across Indonesia, specifically for arbitration-focused competitions such as the Vis Moot. He also co-founded the Indonesia Young Arbitration Community (IYAC), who has been hosting the Indonesian Vis Pre Moot in the past few years.
This article was first published on the website of the Arbitration Committee of the Legal Practice Division of the International Bar Association, and is reproduced by kind permission of the International Bar Association, London, UK. © International Bar Association.
Available at: https://www.ibanet.org/Arb40-Competition