Malaysia's Parliament passed amendments to a criminal law that would bring back detention without trial in the wee hours on Thursday, setting the stage for fierce public debates with the opposition and rights groups that vehemently oppose it.
The amendments come at a time of rising violent crime and increasingly brazen attacks on the streets, with officials saying the new measures were aimed at fighting organised crime, not at reviving the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The opposition tried to block the amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) from being passed by Parliament, but were outnumbered in the marathon session that ended at 12.50am on Thursday.
Prime Minister Najib Razak and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin were present in the vote to pass the amendments to the PCA. There were 115 votes for and 66 against.
There are 133 MPs from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in the Lower House of Parliament, against 89 opposition MPs.
Once passed by senators in the Upper House - a formality as it is also dominated by the BN - the Bill will be renamed the Prevention of Crime (Amendment and Extension) Act 2013, the New Straits Times reported on Thursday.
Asked about the passing of the changes on Thursday, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said nobody had expected crime to escalate after laws like the ISA were repealed.
"I didn't foresee it and you didn't foresee it. We are not safe walking in the streets now," The Star quoted him as saying.
Dr Mahathir added that the country had become unsafe as there were people who did not mind accepting a small fee to kill others.