Asia-Pacific

Malaysia to scrap Internal Security Act

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (c) during the televised statement
Image caption Najib Razak made the statement surrounded by cabinet colleagues

Malaysia is to repeal a strict security law from the colonial era that allows the government to detain people indefinitely without trial.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said the Internal Security Act was being abolished to ensure a modern and functioning democracy.

The law was used to jail opposition leaders, union activists and students.

Mr Najib also vowed to amend a media law that critics say the government has used to threaten newspapers.

The security act, which is a legacy of British colonial rule, will be replaced by two new laws for use mainly against suspected militants.

'Right time'

Mr Najib said that other laws that restrict civil liberties would be reviewed and pledged that the government would not detain any individuals merely on the basis of their political ideology.

"Many will question whether I am moving too far, too fast. Some will say that the reforms should only be carried out in small steps, or not at all," he said in a statement on Malaysian television ahead of the 48th anniversary of the country's independence.

"To them I say, if a reform is the right thing to do, now is the right time to do it."

Malay conservatives, including some groups backed by members of his own party, had also called for the act to be retained for use against political dissidents.

The changes, which are part of reforms that Mr Najib promised when he took office in 2009, will be tabled in parliament before a general election expected next year.

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