Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cycling activists more terrifying than Mat Rempits?

BUKIT MERTAJAM: A non-governmental organisation (NGO) lodged a police report alleging the torching of eight bicycles used in an expedition from Alor Star to Parliament House in KualaLumpur early yesterday while the participants were asleep. [The Star, 8/12/08]

The Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT), an NGO against civil exploitation and oppression launched a nationwide cycling expedition on December 3 to raise public awareness on current issues plaguing the country. The expedition themed, "People Riding for Change" has 65 participants on their list and is been endorsed by Pakatan Rakyat states and several elected representatives in the government.

The two-wheeled entourage plans to track from state to state before proceeding to the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur to hand over a people's claim to the government. For what seemed like a noble cause by JERIT to spread public awareness on current national issues, the campaign had inherently attracted unwanted attention to deter if not sabotage the nationwide tour.

On December 7, expedition coordinator R. Rani Mohanarani claimed that their bicycles were set on fire at about 3am while the participants were asleep at the Yayasan Aman complex, Kubang Semang. Mohanarani told reporters that a crew member had heard explosion-like sounds in the wee hours of morning but none of them managed to see the culprits who torched the bicylces.

Similar attempts to deter another JERIT expedition group where also reported in Johor. This time it was not errant vandalisers but the authorities themselves; who were on high gear to disrupt the campaign. JERIT reported on their website that members of the expedition were constantly harassed by the police, a couple of police cars and a police van were seen following them as they move from one town to another. Many unidentified cars were also reported stalking the expedition group even while the participants were on lunch breaks. According to JERIT reports, roadblocks were also erected along expedition routes.

The authorities in Skudai, Johor have reacted quite ridiculously when they declared a 'state of emergency' on December 6, probably due to the sudden influx of cyclists on the highways of Johor. It was reported that the Skudai police had mobilized their entire unit - from Light Strike Force, FRU to traffic police officers, to prevent 40 youths from taking part in the expedition. They have also gone as far as placing a ban on cycling in Skudai and have issued a public warning that the police would not hesitate to arrest anyone found cycling in the streets. Nonetheless, several members of JERIT were reported to have been arrested on the grounds of 'illegal assembly'.

Had the police likened JERIT members to Mat Rempits so much as to warrant such reactions? The police might just find themselves in a bleaker situation for more public critcism with their misplaced priorities in assuring public order and safety.

However, this begs the question: Could the police display the same prowess and demeanour when it comes to keeping our streets safe from Mat Rempits?

Glossary: A Mat Rempit is a Malaysian term for 'an individual who participates in illegal street racing, usually involving motorcycles and even to the extreme of performing crazy and dangerous stunts for fun.


  1. chong said...

    jangan haraplah.
    sebagai contoh, kes bandar cheras mahkota, terdapat photos dan witness juga, tapi polis hingga hari ini masih tidak dapat menangkap samsengs yang menyebu penduduk-penduduk.

    khabar angin kata samsengs adalah diupah oleh polis!!!