By Mariam Mokthar
Illegal street racing….dare-devil stunts on the highway….bikers harassing other road users and bikers without valid driving licences, insurance or road-tax.
The report by an online newspaper FreeMalaysiaToday, that a man had been critically injured confirms our worst fears about the Mat Rempit menace.
The injured man, 28-year-old technician, Pathmaraj Balakrishnan, works at Finishar Corporation, and was in a Perodua Myvi with two other friends Yogan Kasinathan and Selva Raju Subbiah at 3am on June 9. They were in a traffic jam caused by 200 Mat Rempits and were waiting at the traffic lights opposite the Pantai Hospital, along Jalan Raja Dihilir, when the attack occurred.
Around 30 bikers had broken off from the main group and climbed on top of the Perodua, before jumping on the roof, demanding that the occupants step out of the car.
Yogan said, “When we refused, they started to smash the windscreen and pulled us out. We tried to flee on foot to save ourselves, however, Pathmaraj was unfortunate as he was caught and they beat him up.”
One of Pathmaraj’s family members who requested anonymity said, “Police told us that the Mat Rempits are sometimes on drugs and it is difficult to nab the culprits.”
The Mat Rempit menace is a growing problem, but an end to their illegal racing and intimidation of other road users, does not seem to be near. Many are also alleged to be addicted to drugs.
In 2008, the Kedah Government had proposed the building of a special circuit for the Rempits, to reduce road accidents and also to provide job opportunities for the many unemployed Mat Rempits.
In April 2009, the then Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan accused the Mat Rempit of becoming violent and brazen instead of just being a public nuisance. He said, “We have to come down hard on the Mat Rempit who have started to become involved in robberies, snatch thefts and are even attacking innocent road users and we also need to use harsh tactics to catch the Mat Rempit that try to run away from roadblocks.”
In June 2009, the Terengganu state government offered to sponsor Mat Rempits for international motorcycle grand prix events. The then Mentri Besar said, “We are willing to render other assistance to those who are interested in becoming professional racers besides sponsoring them for the grand prix circuit.”
At the same time, the Malacca state government also announced that it would offer RM6000 loans to those Mat Rempit who were interested in obtaining their micro-light aircraft pilot licence. The then Chief Minister said, “I hope the Mat Rempit will take up the offer and learn how to fly an aircraft instead of racing illegally on the roads and getting themselves killed.”
At a “Ride-It-Right” campaign at Bukit Aman in 2010, the then Inspector-General of Police, Ismail Omar announced that he would work with other agencies to harness the skills of Mat Rempits so that they could be used lawfully. He said that it was an opportunity to scout for riding talent and to educate the Mat Rempits so that they could contribute to the community. He wondered if they could represent the country in professional motorcycle racing and suggested the possibility of setting up a riding academy for Mat Rempits.
The previous month, Ismail had demanded a more serious approach in dealing with Mat Rempits, whom he said were getting more aggressive and bolder: “I have directed all police contingents to give serious attention to tackling the matter. Now, policemen are confronted with violence by a group of people who do not respect the law.”
At the 55th Merdeka Day celebration in August last year, the then Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that Mat Rempits could be used to help fight crime. He said, “Just because rempit has a negative connotation does not mean that we have to neglect them. It will continue to have negative connotation if we do not engage them.”
He declined to give the methods for enlisting the cooperation of Mat Rempits in fighting crime but said, “But with us guiding them, I believe it can become a reality.”
Hishammuddin denied that crime is rising and said, “The issue on the crime index has reached a stage where there are people who don’t want to listen to rationale, so, whatever we say will be twisted and rejected.”
Some Mat Rempits, who have been caught, were found to be only 15 years old. Children need to have boundaries as well as firmness and discipline, both at home and in school. Parents must provide adequate guidance and attention. Some parents do not even know the whereabouts of their children, who stay out until the early hours of the morning.
If the community needs to provide recreational places such as sporting facilities for young adults, then perhaps the new Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin could engage his counterpart in the Housing and Local Government Ministry to provide suitable premises in the community housing areas of cities, towns and villages. Khairy once remarked that Mat Rempits could be rebranded Mat Cemerlang (Mat SuperHero).
The ministers and the police force should talk to the victims and families of the people who were killed or injured in Mat Rempit attacks and accidents, before making flippant remarks or proposing daft ideas to reform the Mat Rempits.
More time, energy and resources from the national and state budgets should be dedicated to tackle the Mat Rempit menace, because none of the measures proposed have appeared to succeed.
We don’t need new laws or creative ways to reform the Mat Rempits. The current laws just need to be enforced, consistently, and not sporadically.