Five dead and a few injured. That was the price of a Mat Rempit (illegal motorbike) race in the early hours of 17 July on the Lim Chong Eu Expressway in Penang.
While I sympathise with the innocent victims, I wonder why the government has not been able to tackle this menace, which has been going on for over two decades despite it having all the resources to do so.
These are not ‘accidents’ like any other. The races are a deliberate act of using motorcycles for an illegal purpose and, worse, on public roads, thus endangering not only the racers themselves but also innocent road users.
Despite police action reported from time to time, the menace continues unabated, thus proving that the authorities have failed to contain the Mat Rempits. The frustrated police even rebranded them as “samseng jalanan” (street hoodlums or thugs). It has not changed anything.
The law clearly makes their activities on public roads illegal and subject to penalties. It even provides for the motorcycles to be confiscated.
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The Road Transport (Amendment) Act 2020 with enhanced penalties for certain offences (including reckless and dangerous driving or riding) came into force on 23 October 2020. But it has not deterred the Mat Rempits.
Laws on paper are a deterrent for civic-conscious persons, not the likes of the Mat Rempits. They are so defiant and aggressive in their behaviour. If enforcement does not send a strong message to them, they will continue.
Since normal laws and law enforcement do not work, isn’t there any other solution?
What did the central bank Bank Negara do to stop people defacing bank notes (at that time there were RM1,000 notes as well? Having got tired of advising people not to deface the notes, it came up with a simple yet most powerful way of stopping the culture. Defaced notes were declared non-legal tender, and overnight the culture disappeared.
In the case of the Mat Rempits, their machines are like the defaced bank notes. Take drastic action and render them unusable, ie turn them into scrap metal by running a 30-ton bulldozer over them. Confiscated ivory and drugs are also destroyed. How many motorcycles will the Mat Rempits be willing to see rendered to scrap metal?
As long as they can get back their machines after paying the penalties, they will be at it again. Another amendment ought to be made to the law immediately – to the effect that motorcycles used for illegal racing on any public road will be mandatorily confiscated and crushed into heaps of scrap metal.
No other penalty is required. They pay the penalty with their machines. Sending them to jail is making the public pay for their upkeep there.
Sometimes it is necessary to be ‘cruel’ to be kind. A little bit of ‘cruelty’ (if crushing the motorcycles is so considered) will go a very long way to be kind to the Mat Rempits themselves and to countless other road users.
So many lives have been lost and many injured due to this menace on the roads, which can be quickly ended if only there is a strong will to do so.
Think of it, to save lives we sometimes sever the gangrenous limbs of people. The Mat Rempits’ motorcycles can be likened to gangrenous limbs of traffic on the roads, and the cheapest and best way to rid the roads of them is to render the motorcycles unusable by turning them into scrap metal.
A drastic situation needs drastic measures. The government should not hesitate to take drastic action (even if politically incorrect) of putting the motorcycles used in illegal racing out of service by crushing them into scrap metal as a cheap and effective solution to the menace. If this is implemented, the roads will soon be free of the Mat Rempits.
Is there any good reason not to take such drastic action to deal with a drastic situation created by not nipping the Mat Rempits in the bud when they first started their life-endangering activities on public roads over 20 years ago? The price being paid by their innocent victims is too high.