By Yow Hong Chieh
KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — Malaysia lags behind the rest of the world in protecting freedom of religion, expression and other basic rights, managing only to place 59th out of 66 countries surveyed by the World Justice Project (WJP) for its Rule of Law Index 2011. Low scores for freedom of religion, expression, assembly and privacy also meant that Malaysia placed second to last in its income group, which includes other upper-middle-income countries like Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Iran.
The report noted, however, that Malaysia ranked first among 19 income peers in terms of security, on par with countries such as France and Belgium, despite the prevalence of police abuse.
Malaysia scored higher for absence of crime, strong labour rights, and lack of civil conflict — which the survey said was “effectively limited” — almost matching or exceeding the average score for other East Asia and Pacific countries.
“As with many other countries in the region, Malaysia presents a contrasting view,” WJP said in a statement today.
“In comparison with upper-middle-income group standards, the government is reasonably accountable, although corruption, political interference, and impunity still exist.” Other areas of concern highlighted by the report include corruption in the judicial branch and the low proportion of government officials cautioned for misconduct.
The efficiency and transparency of government agencies can also be improved upon, as well as access to justice due to weaknesses in the effectiveness of criminal investigation system, the correctional system and, to a lesser extent, due process of law.
The Rule of Law Index, created last year, measures how laws are implemented and enforced in practice and its effect on people’s lives.
Data for the index was collected via a poll of 66,000 members of the public as well as questionnaires administered to 2,000 local legal experts from around the world.
This is the first time Malaysia has been included in the survey.