On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Shaming them is the price to pay


IT’S outrageous. This has to be a scandal as we have plenty of reasons to be angry when there are over 26,000 people who owe the country a whopping RM400mil.

Or have we become so numb that the loss of hundreds of millions no longer shock us or make us scream?

In comparison to the RM1.5bil Port Klang Free Zone fiasco, this is naturally kacang putih money.

But we smell a rat here because the National Higher Education Fund Corporation’s (PTPTN) loan defaulters include public figures.

These are the Yang Berhormat and Yang Berbahagia who are also shameless and irresponsible Yang Berhutang.

The Star reported last week that professionals and celebrities are among the thousands of loan defaulters.

The corporation’s chief executive officer Yunos Abd Ghani said they included those who studied medicine, law and business.

In other words, these errant debtors include doctors, lawyers and businessmen who supposedly have standing in society.

Yunos said the actions taken against these defaulters include barring them from travelling, and 26,627 names have been submitted to the Immigration Department.

The excuses given by these defaulters are pretty pathetic. The standard line is failure to receive notices of demands because they have changed their addresses.

It is amazing that these people can remember checking their bank accounts for their money when they were in university but develop amnesia the minute they graduated.

Suddenly they do not recall owing the corporation money.

It is time that the agency resorts to publishing a list of these defaulters in major newspapers and also online.

Taking full page advertisements to recover RM400mil makes perfect sense. It would be effective and a good way to shame them.

If they have changed addresses or if they have forgotten, as some have claimed, family members and friends would remind them when they come across their names in the papers.

But the PTPTN said it has decided not to publish the names of defaulters as it felt it would not be effective.

I still think this method can work if the plan is properly executed. The PTPTN has to also publish the courses these defaulters were doing so we will have an idea of their standing in society.

There is no reason to think the move to publish the names would not shame them. They have after all shamelessly refused to repay their loans?

Why shouldn’t the public know the identities of these Yang Berhormat and Yang Berbahagia?

In fact, their names should be circulated to all the royal households to ensure that these defaulters do not qualify for any awards.

It should be a criterion as practised by some royal households such as Selangor, where the nominees for awards have to be screened by the police and Bank Negara to ensure they have clean records.

The PTPTN can take a step further by recommending that loan defaulters be disqualified.

As taxpayers, Malaysians, I think, have the right to know who these defaulters are who have not returned our money.

Their selfish acts have deprived future loan applicants as the fund would be affected.

We hope these defaulters have also been slapped with hefty interest rates as penalties.

The PTPTN should also seek the assistance of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and the Inland Revenue Department to track them down.

But it is good to hear from Yunos that 76% of borrowers start repaying their loans as soon as they finished their studies. That means the majority of borrowers are decent people.

The RM400mil is a huge amount of money. We definitely do not want Yunos to sit on these hutang papers and he can certainly depend on the support of the media to help recover the money.