KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 — Malaysia has taken the 51st spot among 126 countries in the World Justice Project’s (WJP) Rule of Law Index 2019.
The index measures how the rule of law is “experienced and perceived in practical, everyday situations by the general public worldwide” based on surveys with more than 120,000 household and 3,800 experts.
Malaysia moved up five rungs from the previous year with 13 more countries added into the survey.
Among the 15 countries in the East Asia and Pacific region, Malaysia is ranked seventh. The top performers in the group are led by New Zealand, followed by Australia and Singapore; while the three countries with the lowest scores were the Philippines, Myanmar, and Cambodia.
The top three spots in the global index were taken by Denmark, followed by Norway and Finland. Meanwhile, the bottom three countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 124th place, Cambodia in 125th, and Venezuela in 126th.
The US-based independent advocacy group’s founder and Chief Executive officer, William H. Neukom, said effective rule of law is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace.
“No country has achieved a perfect realisation of the rule of law. The WJP Rule of Law Index is intended to be a first step in setting benchmarks, informing reforms, stimulating programs, and deepening appreciation and understanding for the foundational importance of the rule of law,” he said.
The overall index measured rule of law performance across eight factors — constraints on government powers where Malaysia ranked 65, absence of corruption (43), open government (103), fundamental rights (90), order and security (43), regulatory enforcement (54), civil justice (42), and criminal justice (41).
Overall, the index found more countries ratings are declining, a sign of the continuing negative slide towards weaker rule of law around the world.
The report suggested this could be due to rising authoritarianism while “Constraints on Government Powers” declined in 61 countries.
This factor measures the extent to which those who govern are bound by governmental and non-governmental checks such as an independent judiciary, free press and the ability of legislatures to apply oversight.
WJP executive director Elizabeth Andersen said: “This slide in rule of law in general and checks on government powers in particular is deeply concerning.
“There is a crucial difference between “rule by law” and “rule of law.” In too many countries, laws and legal institutions are being manipulated to undermine rather than uphold the rule of law, even as governments wrap their actions in “rule of law” rhetoric.
“On a positive note, more countries improved in ‘Absence of Corruption’ than declined for the second year in a row,” she added.