Please enable JS
Rajoo and Comair-Obeid in line as CIArb presidents
25 Nov 2014

*This article was written by Kyriaki Karadelis for the Global Arbitration Review (GAR) website; dated Tuesday, 25 November 2014. It has been reproduced with permission and license by GAR.

 The original piece can be found on

The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators has elected the director of the Kuala Lumpur Regional Arbitration Centre, Sundra Rajoo, and French-Lebanese arbitrator Nayla Comair-Obeid, as its presidents for 2016 and 2017.

The new appointments – which always come in pairs – were made during the CIArb’s biennial congress in Dubai last weekend.

Rajoo and Comair-Obeid beat five other candidates in an election carried out through a US electoral college-style voting system prescribed by the CIArb regulations – with different weight given to the 37 different branches of CIArb depending on their size.
The other candidates were Hong Kong-based arbitrator and founder of the Vis(East) moot Louise Barrington; chartered quantity surveyor Keith Blizzard of Shakespeares in Birmingham; Whit Engle, a Georgia-based US arbitrator; Malcolm Holmes QC of Eleven Wentworth Chambers in Sydney; and John Tackaberry QC of Thirty Nine Essex Street Chambers in London.

Rajoo will initially act as deputy president to Charles Brown, founder of London construction boutique Charles Brown Solicitors, who is CIArb’s appointed president for  its centenary year, 2015.

When Rajoo takes his position at the helm the following year, Comair-Obeid will be his deputy. The current president is Michael Stephens, a Birmingham-based solicitor elected at the last biennial congress in Edinburgh.

After qualifying as an architect and town planner, Rajoo completed a law degree with the University of London while working in the building division of Bank Negara Malaysia. He joined the CIArb in the 1990s, becoming chairman of the Malaysian branch in 2001.

He was appointed director of the KLRCA in 2010 and has recently overseen its move to new premises in Kuala Lumpur following a rise in the number of cases it handles.

Rajoo will be the second Malaysian CIArb president. Vinayak Pradhan, a consultant at Skrine in Kuala Lumpur, held the title in 2013.

Rajoo says the latest election result reflects the institute’s determination to emphasise its international stance and the key role Asia and the Middle East play in arbitration.

A Lebanese-French national, Comair-Obeid is the founder of Obeid Law Firm in Beirut and specialises in international business law in the Middle East. She teaches at the Lebanese University in Beirut and the Lebanese Judicial Institute. She is also a visiting professor at the University of Paris II.

A member of CIArb since 1998, she founded the Lebanese branch in 2004 and became its first chair. She currently chairs the CIArb’s board of trustees, having been appointed to the board to represent the Middle East and Indian subcontinent in 2008.

She has recently been helping to design a syllabus for a new CIArb diploma for arbitrators specialising in Islamic Banking and Finance – a project which will also be of interest to Rajoo given the KLRCA’s focus on Islamic arbitration in recent years.

Comair-Obeid was vice-president of the International Bar Association’s Arbitration Committee from 2010 to 2011. She has been  a council member of the ICC Institute of World Business Law since 2004. One of the runners-up in the election, Tackaberry, notes that while CIArb was founded in the UK,  60 per cent of its 13,000-strong membership is now based outside the country. The election of Rajoo and Comair-Obeid are “very good news indeed” and evidence of “a complete break with the somewhat parochial approach that the institute manifested in the latter part of the last century”, he says.  “Sundra has done an outstanding job of transforming the KLRCA from a body with an eminent foundation and a long history, but a low profile, into a vibrant and successful player in the highly competitive world that international commercial arbitration has become,” says Tackaberry. He expects Rajoo to bring the same “electrifying” energy and enthusiasm to the role of CIArb president.

Speaking about Comair-Obeid’s election, Tackaberry says: “It was 24 years ago that Baroness Helena Kennedy QC [a leading UK judge] addressed a CIArb luncheon on the lack of women in arbitration and the importance of their male colleagues making positive efforts to open the doors and to encourage women to become involved.” “It is very satisfactory that the Chartered Institute has appointed another an excellent woman to a major role.” Margaret Rutherford QC was the first female chair of the CIArb appointed in 1992 (before “chair” became “president”) and Karen Gough of Thirty Nine Essex Street filled the presidential role in 2001. Teresa Cheng SC, now chair of the Hong Kong international Arbitration Centre, was president in 2008.

Alexis Mourre, founding partner of Castaldi Mourre & Partners in Paris, says Obeid has shown “great leadership qualities and a unique capacity for dialogue” in her positions within the IBA and the ICC Institute, as well as a “profound understanding of the issues faced by the international arbitration community”.  She will help CIArb to develop as a “truly global” training institution, he says.  The CIArb’s biennial congress took place on 21 and 22 November, as part of Dubai Arbitration Week.  It was preceded by the CIArb’s annual Alexander Lecture, given this year by Dubai-based Essam Al Tamimi, partner at Al Tamimi & Company. Following the congress, the CIArb’s UAE branch held a one-day conference.