LIKE our futile war against the drug menace, it seems we are also facing an uphill battle to free our country from the mat rempit or illegal street racers.
There is a need for the new administration to review the effectiveness of the current approaches and strategies in combating the problem.
Over the years, many people have discussed the mat rempit issue but nothing concrete has been achieved so far.
The traffic police have mounted countless road blocks and various awareness campaigns have been organised to stop the mat rempit menace but it has become more serious instead.
The Sultan of Johor recently vented his anger at a group of mat rempit for turning the stretch of Jalan Pantai Lido in front of the Sultanah Aminah Hospital into an illegal racing venue.
Laws or other better means to curb anti-social behaviour, especially mat rempit, should be considered.
Our law enforcement agencies would have the authority to detain or take action on those who cause distress or nuisance to the public if we had an Anti-Social Behaviour Act.
The fact that the authorities are unable to curb the problem is partly due to the lack of stringent legislation to deal with the issue.
Since the activity also involves minors, the police do not have the authority to arrest them under the present laws.
Although amending the existing law or introducing new legislation should be the last resort for tackling societal problems, I believe we need an Anti-Social Behaviour Act if our efforts so far have not generated the desired results.
Similar laws have been introduced in many countries and the time has come for this Act to be introduced in Malaysia to deal with the mat rempit menace, which also poses a threat to public safety.
It is known that many mat rempit are involved in snatch thefts besides terrorising other road users.
They have also spurred the emergence of mat lajak or stunt cyclists who are mainly underage children. These youngsters idolise the mat rempit and try to emulate them but they cannot afford motorcycles so they use bicycles that have been converted into race machines.
The root cause of the mat rempit problem must also be identified and tackled. Is it because they come from broken homes and lack parental guidance or they do not have proper places to release their energy or tension?
If they need space to release their energy, the government must provide more sports facilities and recreational spaces for them. We need more football fields, badminton and basketball courts and affordable sports amenities for the young.
As for parents, they should never shirk their responsibility. If an anti-social behaviour law is adopted, I hope it would have a provision to enable the police to act against parents who allow their children to get involved in illegal races and basikal lajak activities.
This is important because there were reports that some of the parents had encouraged their children to modify their bicycles and were not able to discipline and control them.
The incident where eight teenagers lost their lives after a car rammed into a group of mat lajak along Jalan Lingkaran Dalam in Johor Baru on Feb 18 last year should serve as a lesson to all of us, especially parents who are too busy with their career or social activities.
And while waiting for the government to introduce effective means to address the worsening mat rempit and mat lajak problem, the relevant agencies must do what is necessary to protect the safety of both the joyriders and the public as well.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE