A ROAD NOT RACED: There was much debate after Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor suggested that certain roads in Kuala Lumpur be designated for Mat Rempit to race. Experts say the idea is not new and previous events organised for Mat Rempit failed to generate much buzz, write Arnaz M. Khairul and Hariz Mohd
With all the hullabaloo about Mat Rempit and the idea of opening up certain roads to allow them to race legally, it is easy to forget that such programmes had been organised for them before.
However, these programmes soon fell by the wayside, due to lack of funding or interest. Federal Traffic Police chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Mahamad Akhir Darus said recently that, because of budget constraints, the programmes only reached a limited number of young motorcyclists.
“Educational programmes and activities for Mat Rempit are good in the sense that they help to curb social problems associated with the group. However, to reach the objectives set for this group, such campaigns must be done all the way and continuously,” he told the New Sunday Times.
Akhir said the 1M4U Ride programme was conducted with police cooperation to educate reckless motorcyclists.
He said activities were planned for districts nationwide and the programme had attracted young motorcyclists.
“It is fair to say that this programme was a relative success, but sadly, the impact from it was not what we targeted.
“We received a good response from youth motorcyclists in many districts who wanted to join activities under 1M4U Ride. However, due to budget constraints, we could only accommodate a small number of them.”
Akhir said last year, the programme which used the tagline “Tunggang, Jangan Tunggang Langgang”, could only be conducted in three districts.
It is learnt that the programme might not be continued this year at all, due to budgetary reasons.
However, there is still some scepticism that organising legal street races would make a difference.
While budgetary concern was one factor, some say Mat Rempit are more attracted to the thrill of riding their machines dangerously and the promise of “big rewards” rather than seriously pursuing motorsports.
These include thousands of ringgit and can also take a lurid turn, as some are offered women for sex.
Federal Traffic Police officer (enforcement and police contingent operations) Deputy Superintendent Bakri Zainal Abidin said Mat Rempit were not interested in motorcycling programmes organised for them.
“The objective was to educate them on the importance of riding safely, while giving them an avenue to carry out activities they love. But, they were not interested.
“To Mat Rempit, there is no thrill in legal programmes. They prefer to roam in groups and perform dangerous stunts like wheelies, wikang, superman, you name it.
“Besides, they get to win a big sum of money and some organisers offer women (for sex).
“Many of those arrested told police that they took drugs so that they would be brave enough to go on their high-speed rides and to enhance the thrill.”
It was also revealed that more than 60 per cent of the hundreds of Mat Rempit arrested by police over the years were riding motorcycles without licences.
Motorsports consultants Eizwar Supiar and Raja Norzaini Raja Mohd Noor are more scathing in their description of Mat Rempit.
They said the youngsters were a rowdy bunch who prided themselves on being a nuisance on the road. They felt that Tengku Adnan’s proposal was too simplistic.
“To begin with, we cannot call them illegal racers because the majority of them are not racing.
“They are a nuisance on the road. They endanger themselves and other road users with their antics,” said Eizwar.
“They gain satisfaction from showing off, doing stunts and riding recklessly.”
Eizwar has been involved in programmes under the Youth and Sports Ministry aimed at eradicating illegal racing from Malaysian streets. They were carried out in tandem with police and other agencies.
“We have data from the police that identify the hotspots for these activities. We engaged with Mat Rempit. We went as far as providing designated tracks and free tyres, and encouraging them to race.
“Most of them told us they were not really interested in racing. They said they were doing it for fun.
“This is a subculture that needs to be understood. It is about the thrill of rebellion.”
Eizwar said a dedicated track for Mat Rempit could work if there was a concerted effort to deter illegal racing elsewhere.
“The key is education. But for education to succeed, there needs to be effective engagement. We must understand the psychology behind these activities.”
Raja Norzaini, manager of the JPMoto Moto2WorldChampionship team, started the KBSMAM Kapchai Endurance National Series five years ago.
His idea was to provide an affordable pl form for youths to get into organised motorsport.
“The idea of designating a section of road for racing has been done in Thailand with much success.
“It was first done in Buriram two years ago, where thousands of street racers gathered to do ‘sprint tests’.
Now, it has become a monthly activity. It is done for free in a controlled environment.
“Participants are provided with basic insurance coverage and have to adhere to safety requirements such as wearing proper footwear, gloves and helmets.
“It has to be a no-frills affair with strict controls. Eventually, it can also be turned into a platform supported by industry stakeholders.”
Eizwar highlighted the growth of the motorcycle and aftermarket parts industry that had resulted in Malaysian companies gaining an international market presence.
“Not many realise how big the industry is, but we have a number of Malaysian brands that are respected internationally. They market their products in southern Europe and South America, where mopeds are popular.
“If done properly, the government can gain a lot of support from these industry players and turn these activities into something that contributes to the economy.”