Laying down the law

Bilika Simamba is a busy man.

Cayman, like many small British
Overseas Territories and jurisdictions worldwide, has legislation that is
constantly being amended as economic times shift, new requirements are met and
Britain demands the modernisation of its constitution, and by extension, its laws.

Mr. Simamba, as a senior
legislative drafter, is a member of a profession that wields the pen, or rather
the keyboard, which turns the whims of politicians, the advice of legal
departments or the demands of a mother nation into legislative reality.

And now, in an effort to teach
others the intricacies of drafting laws and to simplify and demystify it, he
has turned his many years of knowledge working in legislative processing into a

Mr. Simamba’s The Legislative
Process, A Handbook for Public Officials was featured at a reading and book
signing at Books & Books last week, drawing an audience of lawyers,
students, legal librarians and journalists.

He discussed how he came to write
the 231-page book and gave a summarised version of what was in it.

Mr. Simamba, who works in the
Cayman Islands Legal Drafting Department, stressed that his comments did not
relate specifically to Cayman or his department, but rather were general
comments relating to Commonwealth jurisdictions.

The day before he gave his talk at
Books & Books, Mr. Simamba had a late night, sitting at the Legislative
Assembly until almost midnight while legislators voted to pass bills to amend
two laws.

Early in the book, he addresses the
ongoing shortage of qualified and experienced drafters in developing countries
and jurisdictions at a time which the need for amending laws is growing.

“As soon as the constitution is
enacted, you have to go through all the laws to make sure they are not in
violation of the new legal order.

“Usually that is done in a special
exercise. It is difficult to do it effectively and within the time which you
have. There is a shortage of drafters, which is very common in many countries,”
he said.

Mr. Simamba is one of five legislative
drafters in his department. He trained as a legal drafter in Lusake, Zambia, in
the United Kingdom and Canada and has drafted laws in four Commonwealth
jurisdictions – the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guyana and Zambia.

It took him six years to write the
book, which is the first in a series of three.

 “What prompted me to write it is in all my
years of writing legislation, I found the persons who gave me instructions and
proposals to write laws did not have any knowledge of the legislative process,”
he said. “They expected the proposals to be made today and drafted tomorrow.”

He recommends the book to anyone
who works in government or the public sector, as well as lawyers, journalists
and law students.

“I am hoping that small countries,
some overseas territories and small countries in the Caribbean and elsewhere
who do not have enough resources to develop their own legislative guidelines
would be able to take this book and be able to work through it and make it
jurisdiction-specific,” he said.