Is it such a bad idea to regulate rempits?


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Is it such a bad idea to regulate rempits?
By Zan Azlee

Is creating a safe avenue for those who like to race motorcycles to indulge in their interest, a good move? I think that it is definitely so and I’m sure many people would agree as well.

When a dangerous activity is put in a controlled environment, it makes it easier to regulate and to ensure safety. That’s why there are amateur and professional races all over the world (including in Malaysia).

Hence, motorcycle racing is an actual sport that has it’s own development plan in Malaysia where youths are exposed, trained and nurtured to become professional racers.

Then there is the counter or alternative culture of this motorcycle racing scene here in Malaysia, which we all know as the “Mat Rempits” – young men who race illegally on the streets at night.

Because they do so on public streets and highways, they not only endanger their lives but also the lives of everyone who use these roads. And they are also said to be involved in other vices, mostly illegal.
It is reported that the Mat Rempit culture involves illegal activities, such as gangsterism, gambling, drug usage, prostitution and theft of motorcycles and parts. Quite negative, yes.

So when Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor mooted the idea of closing city streets to allow Mat Rempits to race, I didn’t jump in disagreement immediately.

Of course, there were many who reacted quite negatively to the idea stating that it is a dangerous activity that shouldn’t even be encouraged. Some also said the minister should focus on more important issues.

These are all valid arguments. I don’t deny that motorcycle racing is dangerous. That’s why we need to regulate it. Please refer to the points I made earlier about providing a controlled environment.

And of course, there are many more important issues in society that the minister can also focus on. I have to admit that this is a very significant argument which could just probably win it.

But, that still doesn’t convince me that the minister’s idea of providing an avenue for the Mat Rempits to race is a totally bad one that needs to be dismissed immediately.

To be fair, we don’t even know the details of his idea and what he plans to do. All he has said is to suggest it in very broad terms. We could just hear him out.

What I do realise – and I wonder if the minister realises it too – is that proper and legal avenues already exists for people who want to indulge in motorcycle racing if that is what their heart desires.

There are many amateur and professional motorcycle racing series for both juniors and seniors in the country, including the Malaysian Super Series and Malaysian Cub Prix that are run by professionals.

To be honest, my observation on this issue is that these Mat Rempits race illegally because that is what they want to do. It is because the activity is illegal that they find it most appealing.

And so, no matter what opportunities are made available to them to legalise and regulate what they do, I can bet you my bottom ringgit that a majority of them will not take it and will still continue to do it illegally.

What would be a better idea is to study the root of the problem and why they want to do it illegally and then address it. It could be a lack of education and awareness or even the influence of social ills.

In fact, it could also be that the current opportunities available to race legally are not accessible enough to some of these youths. It could be too expensive or even that there are just far too many youths.

I guess what I’m saying is that the initial suggestion by the minister sounds good. However, it should be fleshed out more and studied properly. It definitely shouldn’t be executed just as a populist and quick fix event.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

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