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Asian Law Institute Confererence
– starting our 10th year with a Bang!

NUS Law hosted the ninth Annual Conference of the Asian Law Institute (ASLI) from 31 May to 1 June this year, attracting participants from no less than twenty-eight countries ranging from neighbouring Asian countries to as far afield as Italy, Belgium and Brazil. Executive Director of ASLI, Assistant Professor Sundram Peter Soosay, reports.


ASLI exists to encourage collaboration amongst scholars in Asia and those working on legal research related to Asia. The annual ASLI conference has been firmly established as a highlight of the academic calendar for many teachers and scholars, drawing enthusiastic participants from around the world. This year was no exception.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Law: An Asian Identity?” Participants were asked to consider the ways in which legal systems across Asia address the legal needs of their populations:

  • Is there a distinctive Asian approach or approaches, as is sometimes assumed, a peculiarly Asian way of doing law? 
  • Are the much-debated “Asian values” a demonstrable influence; or is the reality rather one of rich and growing diversity, with the various legal systems across Asia all finding their own way to solutions appropriate to their unique needs and expectations? 
  • If so, what similarities and differences can be observed across the larger practice of law in Asia? Is there discernible convergence as we move into the twenty-first century? 
These questions and more were raised and explored repeatedly over the two days, often with fascinating results.

On the morning of the first day of the conference, the keynote speech was delivered by Former Deputy Prime Minister Professor S. Jayakumar ’63.

Professor S. Jayakumar ’63

In the course of the conference, over 130 papers were presented across seven parallel sessions on a wide range of topics, with the papers organised under seven general categories:
- Corporate Law and Governance
- Business Law
- International and Comparative Law
- Human Rights
- Criminal and Public Law
- Law and Development; and
- Legal Theory.

Participants presented research on matters as diverse as asset partitioning in China, tort law in Vietnam, anti-terrorism law in Indonesia, arbitration law in Malaysia and the law of evidence in Singapore. The sessions gave participants an invaluable opportunity to learn something of the experience of their neighbours and generated enthusiastic discussion, an engagement that we are sure will continue as participants go on to cultivate the many warm relationships initiated over the two day conference.


At the Opening Dinner, NUS marked a new milestone by launching the Center for Asian Legal Studies (CALS). CALS was honored to have had our former Dean, Professor Tan Cheng Han SC ‘87, launch the centre.

The Distinguished Lecture this year was delivered by Professor Tommy Koh ’61, Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Professor Koh’s lecture was titled “Law and Justice: An Asian Perspective”. Professor Koh drew from his own experience as a diplomat in his usual insightful and entertaining manner, to the great appreciation of the audience. The lecture was followed by an engaging question and answer session with the Director of ASLI, Professor Andrew Harding.

Professor Tommy Koh ’61, Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign AffairsThe conference was closed with a presentation by Professor R Venkata Rao, Vice Chancellor of the National Law School of India, Bangalore. The National Law School will be hosting the conference in 2013, a particular honour as the conference enters its tenth year.

 Professor R Venkata Rao, Vice Chancellor of the National Law School of India, Bangalore

As Professor Rao put it to the audience: “Bangalore beckons.” We hope to see you there!





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