KUALA LUMPUR – December 20, 2017: Like the rest of his mat rempit peers, Alif Taqiudin Ariffin was beaming when he saw a rugged BMW GS 650 adventure bike.
The 18-year-old adrenaline junkie from Bukit Mertajam was even more ecstatic when he was told he could take the big bike for a quick spin.
Mat rempit is a label for street racers on small capacity bikes with a penchants for recklessness and dangerous stunts.
“I have been riding bikes since I was 10 years old… been dreaming of becoming a racer since I was little,” said Alif, who owns a typical mat rempit staple, the Honda EX5.
“The fastest I’ve ever rode was 250 kilometre per hour,” he recalled, adding that his preferred “track” was the Bukit Mertajam-Kulim Expressway.
Alif was among 19 mat rempits who had voluntarily enrolled into last week’s 14-day curative intervention programme organised by Permata’s youth empowerment outfit, Perkasa Remaja.
The youth who is a photocopy machine operator at a local stationery shop said it was his mother who had – despite her motherly disapproval of his passion – encouraged him to sign up for the programme.
“She did not quite like what I was doing but she knew that I can be quite stubborn so she said to me ‘if you like racing so much then go learn how to be a proper racer’”, he quipped.
Apparently Alif’s mother was right.
Throughout the programme held at a Gombak Military Police Training Centre, Alif gets to meet, talk and listen to pointers from veteran racers and motorcycle jockeys.
“I’m glad I listened to my mother. When I heard these veterans’ life stories I realised that we’re not so different. I realised that if they can be a proper racer, then why can’t I?” he said.
Merempit –the act in which a mat rempit does– has been touted as the country’s most predominant social illness that, in 2007 was said to affect more than 200, 000 Malaysian youths.
Academics have also contended that merempit is a gateway to a number of delinquencies, particularly gangsterism. A case in point was the mat rempit road-rage against an ambulance driver and a nurse in Taiping on Sunday.
Where many were under the impression that mat rempits are already a lost cause, former national cub prix racer Wazi Abdul Hamid made it his life’s mission to rehabilitate these problematic youths.
Wazi, a facilitator with the programme, said there was a terrible lack of understanding between the public and the mat rempits.
“Even those who want to help them seem to have little understanding about them. An hour-long lecture on the negative implications of merempit will only bore them.
“That is why for those who love racing, I invite former racers like Shahrol Yuzy to share his experiences with these kids.
“For those who love tinkering their bikes, I arrange an excursion to a nearby Giat Mara (government vocational college) school of motorcycle technology so that they know where to go to if they want to be a proper mechanic,” Wazi explained.
Attesting that he understood the psyche of the mat rempits, Wazi said he wanted to help these troubled youths as they reminded him of his younger self.
“I think the reason why merempit is becoming an even more serious problem than ever is partly due to our quick-to-condemn society. What many do not understand is that these kids are not evil.
“They’re just a bunch of misguided and underprivileged kids who do not know how to properly express their passion for motorcycles,” said Wazi .