The government of Malaysia plans to drop an arcane security law which allowed the state to detain people indefinitely without trial.

Prime Minister Najib Razak told an audience that the so-called the ‘Internal Security Act; will be eliminated in order to foster a modern democratic society.

Historically, the law – a remnant of British colonial rule -- was applied against anti-government protesters, students and union leaders.

The law will be replaced by new measures which will be designed to prosecute suspected militants.

Najib also said he will amend a law that has been used by the government to silence newspapers and media which criticized the state.

Many will question whether I am moving too far, too fast,” Najib said in a statement on television. “

Some will say that the reforms should only be carried out in small steps, or not at all. To them I say, if a reform is the right thing to do, now is the right time to do it.

Najib, who took over power in Malaysia in 2009, has promised other changes to improve civil liberties.

Malaysia was wracked by street riots in July when thousands of protesters rallied in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The demonstrations were organized by a group of activists who call themselves Bersih - or the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections – who are demanding political and electoral reforms in the country.

More than 1000 people were arrested, but quickly released.