International development organizations urgently called for the training of mediators and the setting up of special mediation boards to mitigate the ill effects of the Government through the Ministry of Justice arbitrarily increasing the limit of the monetary value in respect of the disputes to be referred to compulsory mediation up to Rs 500,000.

The decision to increase the monetary value limit of disputes referred to compulsory mediation in relation to moveable/mobile or immovable/stable assets including property or a loan/debt, losses/damage or requests/demand, from Rs 250,000 to Rs 500,000, was made by the Cabinet on 2015 December 23.

Addressing issues regarding alternative dispute resolution and those affecting mediation in relation to commercial disputes, Senior Technical Advisor on Law, Justice and Gender at The Asia Foundation, Dr. Ramani Jayasundere pointed out that community mediation boards are engaging in credit transactions.

This changes the original intent of mediation by community mediation boards, which is to settle interpersonal, and community and communal level disputes, she noted, adding that the latter aspects were thus getting sidelined.

“This is not good,” she remarked. The other aspect is that community mediation boards due to the increase in the threshold value/amount, are engaging in restructuring debt and the scheduling of the repayment of loans, which is not only not in line with the original intent of the community mediation boards but is also not favourable to poor people who obtain loans without any understanding of how to pay them back, she explained.

“Minister of Justice President’s Counsel Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe proposed the said increase and the Ministry of Justice implemented it without any consultation with anybody. The increase to Rs 500,000 from Rs 250,000 is very, very dangerous. This situation is favourable to banks and leasing companies. The damage has already been done. To offset the negative consequences, mediators should be trained to look at the root causes of a dispute and then arrive at a settlement,” she said.

“Mediation boards including community mediation boards must look at the root causes. This is what they are there for. Another thing that can be done is to utilize the provisions in the law currently in place to set up special mediation boards for special disputes and to then divert commercial disputes involving credit transactions and debt restructuring from community mediation boards to special mediation boards for special disputes,” she emphasized. (RLJ)