Rule of law one of nation's core principles: MinLaw

In response to the World Justice Project's (WJP) report, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said yesterday that rule of law is one of Singapore's core principles as a nation, and the foundation on which it is built.

A spokesman told The Straits Times that Singapore had swiftly put in place measures to address the impact of Covid-19 pandemic disruptions, and continued to ensure access to justice despite limitations arising from safe distancing measures.

Singapore has consistently performed well in the Rule of Law Index over the years, ranking highly both regionally and globally across all factors, noted MinLaw.

This year, Singapore's scores in the factors of civil and criminal justice dipped slightly owing to delays and access issues brought about by the pandemic, according to the WJP.

But MinLaw pointed out that in April last year, a temporary remote hearing framework was introduced to allow cases to continue to be heard through the circuit breaker period, which curtailed most activities for almost two months.

The courts also reported overall "excellent" clearance rates last year. This was 96 per cent for all civil and criminal matters in the Supreme Court, consistent with pre-pandemic days in 2019, and 108 per cent in the State Courts - which meant that more cases were disposed of than filed.

While some cases last year were delayed, the majority of these were substantially disposed of by January this year.

"The Government also pressed on to implement measures to assist vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 pandemic," said the spokesman, pointing to the specialist Protection from Harassment Court which started in June.

MinLaw noted that the Government did not rely solely on executive measures when implementing measures to manage the pandemic, despite the urgency of the situation.

Institutional checks and relevant parliamentary processes continued to be observed, such as when a series of legal reliefs for individuals and businesses under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act was passed in Parliament.

Pointing to Singapore's low Covid-19 death rates and high vaccination rates, the spokesman said: "Such positive outcomes, even during a crisis such as the pandemic, are testament to how our adoption of rule of law in Singapore is ultimately premised on achieving good governance and improving the lives of all Singaporeans."

Justin Ong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2021, with the headline 'Rule of law one of nation's core principles: MinLaw'. Subscribe