A mat rempit was killed when his motorcycle skidded while he was fleeing from the police at Jalan Taman Rantau, near the Rantau public hall on Nov 11 2017.

I have never ridden a motorbike before, not even as a pillion. A motorbike does not give me the safety assurance that a car does as one is exposed to danger aplenty when on the road. I have had friends involved in motorbike crashes, some even fatal. So, it boggles my mind how some tempt fate riding their bikes, especially the mat rempit who participate in illegal races.

Wikipedia defines mat rempit as “an individual who participates in immoral activities and public disturbance with a motorcycle as his main transport”.

The multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia says the word rempit comes from “ramp-(rev)-it” or “ramp the throttle” while an alternative source says the word is derived from the noise made by a 2-stroke motorcycle.

In New Straits Times’ Cross Talk interview in 2009, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia psychology expert Associate Professor Dr Rozmi Ismail said the word rempit refers to anybody using loud motorbikes, which are small and below 120cc, to perform stunts.

He has been researching the mat rempit phenomenon in a series of studies since 2001.

Prof Dr Rozmi’s study shows that most of the mat rempit are 15 to 17 years old, many of whom are school dropouts. A good number of them work as dispatch riders, factory workers and burger sellers.

“They are looking for fun, they are sensation seekers. They want the thrill and to feel excited.

“Riding a motorbike is the cheapest way for them to do this. If you have RM10 or RM5, you can go round town for the whole night. They can’t go to a hotel lounge or disco. For them, riding with their friends is cheap and fun, fun which they create themselves,” he said.

There have been many suggestions from government officials, cabinet ministers, politicians, academicians and the likes to curb the menace caused by mat rempit.

Some of the suggestions, very oddly, seem to encourage the continuance of the menace.

One includes rebranding the mat rempit as mat cemerlang and mat motor. I believe the mat motor would be offended if they are lumped together with the mat rempit as the former do not necessarily take part in the illegal street races. There have been newspaper reports of mat rempit throwing fireworks at a police station and attacking an ambulance driver and a nurse.

Even then, two state governments suggested that these mat rempit be allowed to show off their skills at race tracks or circuits specially built for them.

Another proposal was for them to be allowed to hone their racing skills freely on some city roads. There are talks among the authorities to provide designated areas and time for them to gather without affecting the public and other motorists. The move would allow them to have entertainment in a safe environment.

Also, there was a suggestion for the mat rempit to channel their energy into music and a particular ministry is said to be willing to provide them the musical instruments.

Professor Dr Rozmi has other ideas. In the NST interview, he calls on the government to amend the law especially the offence of driving in an aggressive and dangerous manner to cover mat rempit activities.

Mandatory jail sentence, some say, is too harsh on these young illegal riders. Committing them to community service seems to be a preferred alternative.

I, however, believe in tough love as it will do wonders to them. As the Urban Dictionary puts it aptly, “to show somebody some tough love today will save them heartache in the future”.

The only way to get them to toe the line is to slap them and slap them really hard. The authorities should confiscate their bikes. What is a mat rempit without his wheels? He is a nuisance no more. In fact, ban them from holding a motorbike or driving licence for 10 years or more or for a lifetime. Why do I include driving licence? Imagine the mat rempit graduating from their motorbikes to cars. It is a very scary thought.

Fauziah Ismail is Associate Editor, Digital/Features Editor, L.E.T New Straits Times

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