Malaysia abolishes controversial security laws

Updated On: Sep 16, 2011

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced he will abolish two controversial laws as part of a part of reforms, promised in 2009, that will be tabled before a general election expected next year.

Mr Najib has vowed to repeal the Internal Security Act which would allow the government to detain people indefinitely without trial. He pledged that no individuals would be detained for their political ideologies. A media law that critics say the government has used to threaten newspapers will also be ammended.

"I am happy to announce on this historic night that the ISA will be completely repealed," Mr Najib said in a nationally televised speech to mark Malaysia's 48th anniversary of independence.

"The changes are aimed at having a modern, mature and functioning democracy which will continue to preserve public order, ensure greater civil liberty and maintain racial harmony."

Report: Malaysia PM scraps security laws, announces freer press  (Reuters, September 15 2011)

The changes come as the government has come under intense domestic and international pressure to overhaul economic and government policies, that they pledged to reform in the last elections.

The laws will be replaced by two new laws for use mainly against suspected militants, although some are wary as to what difference will be seen on the ground.

"Najib is defining his agenda for political reform, but the devil will be in the details in whether he can translate these promises into concrete implementation," said Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia specialist at Singapore Management University.

"Institutions like the police and judiciary are also still criticized as not being independent so while he's embraced political reforms he has touched only the surface of it," said Welsh.

The announcement comes as Mr Najib faces growing public discontent, in the aftermath of recent protests which were quelled by security forces in July.

Mr Najib also pledged to enact market friendly economic reforms and cut the budget deficit amidst growing uncertainty about the global economic outlook.

The Internal Security Act, which takes a similar form in Singapore, has been in place since British colonial rule. While it was used to stem a Communist insurgency in the 1960s, critics argue it has become little more than a government tool to stifle dissent.

Report: Malaysia to scrap Internal Security Act  (BBC News, 15 September 2011)
Report: Malaysian Leader Opens Door for Reforms  (WSJ, September 16 2011)

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