IT was a tragic morning last Saturday when eight teenage cyclists were killed and eight others were badly injured after a car ploughed into them along Jalan Lingkaran Dalam in Johor Baru at 3.30am.
Soon after the horrific accident, the blame game started. There was speculation that the woman driver was using her mobile phone, which the police have denied, when the car struck the cyclists. Others faulted the youngsters, who were apparently there to race and show off their modified bicycles.
The grieving parents were targeted in the flurry of finger-pointing too. Some people argued that the parents had been lackadaisical about ensuring their children’s safety and should therefore be dragged to court for child neglect.
There was even talk that the accident was caused by a “mysterious figure” as the accident spot overlooks a Muslim cemetery.
As if that were not bad enough, the chatter about the incident has needlessly taken on a racial tone because the victims and the driver are from different races.
It is puzzling and unfortunate that whenever something bad happens in this country, it is often politicised or turned into a racial issue, particularly on social media.
Johor Permaisuri Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah was spot on in a Facebook posting on Sunday, in which she urged Malaysians to stop the blame game and instead work with the authorities to find a solution.
“Hurtful and angry words will not bring them back to life,” she wrote.
Youngsters gathering for bicycle races in the wee hours is not unique to Johor Baru; it happens in a few other places in Malaysia, including the Klang Valley.
This requires everyone’s attention. We are all familiar with the problem of Mat Rempit and Minah Rempit racing illegally along public roads, especially during weekends.
Now we are confronted with another worrying phenomenon – the younger Mat Basikal or Mat Lajak who cruise around on our city roads, performing stunts on their bicycles and trying to outspeed each other.
The dangers of such antics on the road are obvious and this has to be addressed immediately. It is sad that it took such a loss of life and limb to raise public awareness.
And it is not just about curbing traffic accidents. Because they move around with little adult supervision, the Mat Basikal groups, said to have as many members as 100 each, may attract drug peddlers and sexual predators.
It is clear that parents who cannot prevent their kids from dicing with death in the streets at 3am, or who do not know such a thing is happening, really need help.
And the authorities cannot offer effective solutions if the parents and the community in general do not do their part.
So instead of assigning blame and floating baseless rumours, we need to figure out how we can play a role in helping these youngsters get back on track. This will help not just them, but the country as well.