O Captain, my Captain!

So, the see-sawing of leadership credibility of the SMRT has reached an interchange. The CEO has quit (or euphemistically  “to pursue personal interests” – a heck of a time to go do personal stuff. She was either fired or resigned or told to resign.)

“Saw has left the building. I repeat, Saw has left the building”.

In many ways, this was to happen; it was just a matter of time. All the times when there were service issues with the SMRT, it was the Transport Minister Liu that was front and center answering questions etc.  One could be forgiven if that left the impression that Minister Liu was the person in-charge of the SMRT and that there was no other accountable employee. Alas, there always was a CEO, but no one Saw her anywhere. So Minister Liu had to be the talking-head.

I thought the SMRT was a commercially run entity and a private company at that. This was the statement made by the Law minister himself.

Is the Law Minister wrong? If he is wrong, then I can understand why the Transport Minister was answering SMRT’s issues. But I think the real answer lies elsewhere.

Parts of the train infrastructure is owned by the LTA. The business of running the trains is owned by the SMRT. So, when there is an issue, whose problem is it? Perhaps both the ministers are right in their assessments.

I did my reservist duties in the SCDF. I was the company commander of the Newton MRT Station Bomb Shelter. Our SOP in converting the station into a bomb shelter includes the use of the two tracks on which the 6-carriage trains will be parked and with airflow and power fed in from the station itself. The ends of the tracks past the ends of the trains have blast doors that will be deployed to secure the whole station as a bomb shelter. In all of the shelter exercises I was involved, we never closed the doors on the tracks because the doors were mis-aligned and if we forced it to close, we might not be able to open it and trains cannot resume service after our exercise.

While it is very unlikely that Singapore will ever see a need to actually use the bomb shelters for their intended purposes, the fact that we cannot secure the Newton MRT station is a problem. I was told was the there is no clear agreement between SMRT, LTA and the SCDF as to who will bear the costs of doing repairs to align the doors. I have one caveat here: this info is probably outdated. My last ICT with the SCDF was back in mid-2005 or so, when I handed over the command to my successor. Hence it is possible that the doors have been repaired.

My intention in bringing up the issue of the blast doors has to do with who ultimately owns and is accountable for the entire mass rapid transit system.  From all the finger pointing we’ve seen so far, it appears that no one really knows, not even the Cabinet.


  1. You are so right. And I can tell you this sort of buck pushing is common in LKY, GCT and now LHL’s govt. The arrangement is so complicated and even anomalous that the senior civil servants are forever suspicious and quarreling with each other (using their subordinates as proxy fighters) and completely unwilling to do the right mature thing as they are afraid to lose points if getting involved would open up a can of worms or they are left carrying the baby!

    There was once a very clever Civil Service Head who coined the slogan that there is ‘no wrong door’ for the public to contact a govt dept to solve a problem or issue. But it never quite caught on. Things was approx. that way as long as he was around. it no longer is since his retirement. He is not with the GIC. lol

  2. When the real issues need to be looked into, ministries are good in playing Tai Chi. However, when come to opposition matters, all PAP mercenaries became volunteer and well-coordinated. Singapore govt is just doing all the wrong stuff.

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