KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 22): Gerakan Manifesto Nasional has filed a suit against the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition as well as the National Higher Education Fund Corp (PTPTN) for failing to honour the former's election manifesto, specifically the coalition's promise to defer repayment of PTPTN loans for borrowers earning less than RM4,000 a month.
The group, led by Umno supreme council member Datuk Razlan Rafii, claimed that they were approached by some PTPTN borrowers complaining that they were cheated by the PH coalition through promises made in their manifesto during the 14th general election (GE14) last year.
"We were approached by these people, telling us that they had been cheated after voting for PH [in the 14th General Election (GE14)]. Therefore, Gerakan Manifesto Nasional would like to bring this matter to court.
"We have already discussed with our lawyers that there is an opportunity for us to bring this case to court with the intention of teaching our leaders not to speak carelessly and not to throw out false promises, which no one can fulfil. This means that every manifesto must be carefully researched and the leaders must be accountable to keep that promise," Razlan told reporters at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex today.
Citing the Buku Harapan that listed the coalition's promises, the group's lawyer Adnan Seman highlighted that PH had promised to delay the loan repayment for those who earn less than RM4,000 per month and repeal the practice of blacklisting borrowers who are unable to repay their loans.
Adnan also pointed out that PH promised to overhaul the repayment structure of PTPTN loans so that the total repayment will be based on the borrower's salary.
"So as we can see from the Buku Harapan, the PTPTN issue was stated clearly and repeatedly in the book and this has influenced young voters to vote for PH [which led them] to win GE14. These were the promises they made during the last election," he said.
However, he acknowledged that the government has done away with the practice of blacklisting borrowers failing to repay their loans.
The five plaintiffs named in the suit are Andry Puta Haris, Farah Athirah Kamarozaman, Mohamad Asrol Md Jailani, Mohamad Muzakkir Mohamad Ali, and Mohammad Aswad Sobri, who are all said to be PTPTN borrowers currently earning less than RM4,000 a month.
The three defendants named in the suit were PTPTN, PH, and the Malaysian government.
In the writ of summons, the plaintiffs are demanding the following:
- a declaration that the election manifesto is a binding contract on the party that won the election
- a court order for the defendants to postpone PTPTN repayment for all borrowers earning less than RM4,000 a month
- general compensation from the defendants.
The defendants were given 14 days to attend to the plaintiffs' demands.
In November last year, PTPTN chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan announced that the corporation is backing down from its promise, saying it is owed almost RM40 billion.
Wan Saiful, who admitted contributing to the drafting of the pledge in PH's election manifesto, apologised for backing out but stressed that it was inevitable due to the country's debt situation.
Further, Gerakan Manifesto Nasional is calling for the Parliament to establish a new law that would make breaking manifesto promises a criminal offence so that political parties will not use fraudulent methods to trick voters into supporting them by making false promises that they not only know are unrealistic but also have no intentions to deliver.
To this end, the group will launch a public petition to gather signatures to urge MPs to table a bill in Parliament to make it illegal for any political party to issue false election manifestos aimed solely at tricking voters.
"It should not only be the moral responsibility, but also the legal responsibility, for political parties to be accountable for their promises to the voters. As in most cases, when it is written in law, only then these political parties would take their promises seriously," it said.