Sanum Investments Ltd and another v Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and others  SGHC(I) 9, is part of various long-running disputes between the parties, which have been the subject of numerous decisions from the Singapore courts.
In essence, the investors tried to set the arbitration award aside based on two grounds, i.e.
(i) that they were not given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on their claims and
(ii) that the award was at variance with Singapore’s public policy of ensuring that
parties to a dispute have fair access to justice.
The SICC confirmed that the Tribunal had made determinations of law and fact in relation to a doctrine of substantive law under the governing law (i.e. New York law). These determinations had led to the Tribunal’s conclusion that the doctrine of collateral estoppel applied to bar the Investors from arguing the merits of the Estopped Claims which according to the SICC was not objectionable. The SICC noted that a tribunal’s determinations of fact and law must be taken as they are unless they have been tainted by process failures.
The SICC denied both grounds and held that an award that is made based on res judicata principles is not, for that reason, contrary to public policy or a breach of natural justice. Preclusionary doctrines serve the cause of justice by promoting finality in litigation. Their existence in most legal systems, including Singapore, demonstrates that they are not in and of themselves objectionable.
The decision again underpins the Singapore courts’ minimal curial intervention in arbitral proceedings. It makes it clear that the fact that a tribunal refuses to hear certain claims because they are barred by preclusionary doctrines will not constitute to a breach of natural justice.