AG’s Chamber staff learn art of drafting legislation
February 4, 2003
Eighteen members of the staff of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and Parliament Office recently completed a ten-day course in legislative drafting for social change.
Professor Robert Seidman and his wife Dr Ann Seidman from Boston University’s School of Law conducted the course. The local office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) sponsored the course and the Seidmans’ visit with funding provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
In an interview with the Seidmans, they told Stabroek News the course participants comprised 13 lawyers from the Attorney- General’s Chambers including the Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel and the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly.
Professor Seidman ex-plained that the aim of the course was to teach the persons involved in drafting bills how to translate the details of a bill to reflect the broad prescriptions of policy they get from the ministers.
“We find that viewed from that light that we can teach the legal aspects of drafting to non-lawyers with no more difficulty than it takes to teach the social science aspects of this to lawyers,” he said, explaining that the language of discourse in a bill is always social data.
Dr Seidman explained that the course exposed the participants to the conceptual methods of a ministerial decision, say of protecting a forest, being included in a bill with the necessary details to ensure that the forest is in fact protected.
She added that the course would help the parliamentary staff to assist the members of the National Assembly on how to assess bills in a meaningful way.
She said that one of the objectives was to encourage reasoning, informed by experience, so that the enacted legislation actually serves the interest of the nation. Another she said is to help the participants to organise facts and logic in a way that enables the law to contribute to the required change of behaviour to help solve social problems.
While here the two American professors lectured to the students of the University of Guyana’s law programme and it is their hope that they could work with the Head of the Law Department Professor Rudy James in developing a course in legal drafting.
About the involvement of the parliamentary staff, the Seidmans said that their exposure would assist them to help the legislators to better think through the issues in draft legislation and help the legislators to obtain information from their constituents to influence bills that affect them.
The Seidmans brought to the course more than three decades of experience in teaching legislative drafting in countries such as Laos, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Mozam-bique, Bhutan, Nepal and Kazakhstan.
Over the years they have developed a manual entitled “Legal Drafting for Demo-cratic Change” and which Prof Seidman urged the participants to adapt based on their experience and circumstance. They stressed that because of the unique circumstances of each country, laws could not be copied from another country.