So sick of Mat Rempit!

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WHEN I was 18, my father bought me a 100cc Suzuki scrambler. I remember how proud I was when I first received the machine which was red in colour. It was my first motor-bike. Now I can junk my old bicycle and proudly ride my motorcycle to school.

But my love affair with my brand new motorcycle only lasted eight months. A self-accident, five months later, saw me crashing the machine into the front gate of my house early one morning as I was rushing for school. I was badly shaken up and sustained bruises on my arms and legs. I also had to miss school for two days.

The accident, however, taught me a few things. The motor-bike is a dangerous machine and the rider is very exposed to harm and injury in an accident. Although the Suzuki's engine capacity was only 100cc, it could accelerate at quite a high speed. This was one danger. The other was that the machine was light and could easily swerve out of control, if not handled with care.

After another accident in my school compound three months later, I gave up on the motor-bike. Looking back, I can count my lucky stars that the accidents did not occur on public roads. Otherwise, I would either sustain more serious injuries or be a goner.

Eight months were all the time I spent with my motor-bike. I gave the machine to my younger brother after that and decided to ask my father to drive me to school instead.

I must concede that I was never good in handling a motorcycle. My sense of balance was poor.

Zero tolerance

As a teenager, I had already discovered how dangerous the two-wheeler can be. And today, I cannot help but feel very annoyed, disturbed and angry at those who abuse the machines on public roads. In so doing, they not only endanger their own lives but other road users as well.

Now, let me make a very honest declaration: I have ZERO tolerance for Mat Rempit (a capital 'zero') That's how I feel whenever the subject of these illegal motorcycle racers (colloquially known as Mat Rempit) is brought up.

If they were lined up to face the firing squad, I don't mind to volunteer to pull the trigger. To me, these people are a criminal of sort. They are parasites. Their idea of fun is having pleasure on public roads and they have no qualms if others are killed as a result of their having fun.

Perhaps I should relate a few incidents that I personally witnessed so as to let you all know why I think so lowly and am just pissed off by these people.

One incident I remember well happened about three years ago. I was enjoying a late night supper of bak kut teh with a visiting friend from Kuching at Jalan Raja Laut in Kuala Lumpur. My friend's wife was also with us. I think it was around 11pm.

Suddenly, vroom...vrooom...vroooooommmmm, some 20 of those hell raisers roared by on their machines with modified exhausts screaming down the road. The loud roars of the machines startled everyone. For a moment, I noticed that the faces of my friend and his wife had turned pale. My heart was also racing, perhaps skipping a beat or two, as a result of the intolerable noise and fright..

The noise as the Mat Rempit roared by was deafening. The three-lane Jalan Raja Laut that night was still busy and pedestrians could be seen crossing the street at that hour.

When the first group of Mat Rempit roared by, everything was fine - as far as I could see from where I was sitting, just outside the restaurant.

The second group then roared by, some carrying other guys or girlfriends as pillions. My guests and myself soon lost our appetite and were just about to leave when suddenly, one of the racers (possibly from a third group) lost control of his machine and was coming our way. All of us scrambled to safety in the nick of time as the machine slammed into some tables and chairs near us. It came to a halt some 10 meters away near the entrance to a bank.

No sympathy

The fellow who was lucky to escape with only bruises had earlier collided with another Mat Rempit. The other guy was not so fortunate. He landed on the road a distance away from us. Later, we could see his life-less body being carried into a passing car. God knows what happened to him!

Well, call me a cold, heartless person if you will but I have no sympathy whatsoever for the two guys. They deserved what they got.

I dare not imagine what would happen if the machine were to plough into a group of children having their meals outside the restaurant then. You tell me.

Then, there was another occasion several months ago when I was driving along Jalan Kuching (also in KL) just after the old toll plaza. It was around midnight. I believe there were four groups of these hell raisers who zoomed past me at breakneck speed. I was cruising along the middle lane of the highway, feeling tired as well as upset by the antics of the Mat Rempit

My sixth sense seemed to tell me that something was about to happen that night and it did. Suddenly, one of them swerved too close to my vehicle and clipped the side-view mirror. The fella's guardian angel must be with him that night. Luckily, he did not fall from his bike, otherwise he would have been rammed over by his own kind who were speeding behind.

As if I was in the wrong, the lousy fella gave me his middle finger before speeding off to catch up with his mates. The only damage to my car was a broken mirror but I dare not think of what would happen to the Mat Rempit had I not kept my rage under control. Had I deliberately swerved towards him, he would probably have wished that he hadn't been born.

Another incident which I can recall vividly happened 10 years ago in Kuching. I remember the year because it was during the 1996 state elections.

That day, I was driving home along Jalan Tun Haji Openg just before midnight. There was a motorcyclist in front of me, riding his machine at a reasonable speed. As we neared the Jalan Badruddin/Golflinks/Haji Openg roundabout (now a traffic light junction), four or five of those illegal racers suddenly zoomed past me. Within a split second, I saw the motorcyclist in front of me crashed his machine on the concrete kerb. I knew he was trying to give way and avoid the hell racers but he rode too close to the roadside. He fell and I could see that he was injured. The Mat Rempit happily sped off, as if nothing had happened.

They don't care

I could not stop there and then to get down and help the guy as there were traffic behind me. And I had to make the turn at the roundabout to get back to the injured man on the road. Surprisingly, other motorists who passed by did not stop to help the poor fellow.

Luckily, the man was not badly injured even though his machine was a total wreck. I sent him to the hospital which was nearby. I later learnt that he was a soldier and he was returning to the Mile 8 Army Penrissen Camp that night. When he was unable to contact any family or friends at that ungodly hour, I decided to stay with him. He was treated for his bruises and gashes on his arms and legs. Upon further checks and observation, the doctor finally agreed to discharge him. After accompanying the young man to lodge a police report on the accident, I sent him back to his Penrissen Camp. By the time I reached home myself, it was almost morning.

Of course, those Mat Rempit couldn't care two hoots how others suffered as a result of them enjoying themselves and getting the kick out of racing.

I think the sooner the government introduce harsher penalties for illegal motorcycle racing, the better.

Mat Rempit have rightly been categorised under the high-risk group as they are likely to be involved in road accidents. They are people who ride their motorcycles without observing traffic rules, endangering not only themselves but others as well.

This week, Penang Chief Minister Dr Koh Tsu Koon expressed concern that the growing menace of Mat Rempit in the state will affect efforts to promote the state as a tourism destination if it is not curbed fast.

"Surely the tourists will want to think twice about coming to Penang if we have cases of Mat Rempit going around on a robbing spree,'' he said.

Early Sunday morning, several groups of Mat Rempit had gone on a robbing spree in Seberang Prai. They robbed a family of four and another man in separate incidents between 4am and 5am.

Koh said the police and relevant authorities would have to take swift and stern action to stop such incidents as they not only caused bodily harm to people and damage to properties but also tarnished the image of the state and country.

Off the streets, please!

On Monday, outgoing Kedah Chief Police Officer Zuber Mohd Shariff chided certain quarters for seeking the force's permission to temporarily convert public roads into circuits for Mat Rempit.

The requests were made to ensure that the youngsters could "let off steam," he said.

Zuber said he rejected such requests because allowing vehicles to exceed the speed limit on public roads contravened the Road Transport Act.

Not too long ago, the Sultan of Pahang also expressed his displeasure about the antics of the illegal racers after he had a close brush with a group when he was behind the wheel.

Now, I think Putera Umno should stop wasting its time in trying to use the soft approach and attempting to get recognition for Mat Rempit. Things could get worse if such people think that they have an official recognition of sort. I doubt the 50,000 illegal racers in the country are able to act responsibly - until perhaps they get severely injured in accidents.

I agree wholeheartedly with Malacca Chief Minister Mohd Ali Rustam who said recently that if they (Mat Rempit) can't even be bothered to pay fines for breaking traffic rules, then it is better to send them to jail.

"They can repent while doing their time, and this will also act as a deterrence to others who want to show off their skills and participate in illegal races. They are endangering their lives and those of other road users," the rather irked chief minister said.

You can say that again, Datuk Seri. I am also sick, sick, very sick of them. Please get those 'parasites' off our streets.

And I am pretty sure that among the 50,000 Mat Rempit, there are a few hundreds who are just as poor in balancing themselves on a two-wheeler as me. But then again, even as a teenager, I didn't have to let off steam by racing on the street.

My advice to those Mat Rempit who want to let off steam is: Bang your head hard on the wall - without the helmet.

FRANCIS PAUL declares Mat Rempit public enemy No 1 on Malaysian roads. He can be reached at [email protected] .

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