Over three months after official confirmation, Neo Kian Hong took over as chief executive of SMRT yesterday, taking the reins of the transport operator from ex-CEO Desmond Kuek.
Official confirmation that Neo would replace Kuek came after months of speculation that Kuek would vacate the top post after a five and a half-year tenure at SMRT that was marked by various controversies – from the deaths of two trainees who were struck by an oncoming train, to the unprecedented flooding of an MRT tunnel and a collision between two trains that injured over 30 individuals, besides countless train service breakdowns.
Interestingly, Kuek left SMRT to the man who replaced him as Chief of Defence Force. In 2010, Kuek relinquished his position as CDF to Neo. At the time, Neo had been serving as Chief of Army – a post he passed down to current Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Chan Chun Sing – one of the ministers hotly tipped to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as head of Government.
In 2013, Neo retired from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and passed on the CDF mantle to Ng Chee Meng – a former Lieutenant-General who now serves as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and secretary-general of the labour movement.
With both Kuek and Neo being ex-military men, there is no change to the number of former military personnel who occupy top roles in SMRT’s Group Senior Management that sees ex-SAF and Ministry of Defense (MINDEF) personnel occupying seven out of 15 posts:
- Neo Kian Hong – SMRT’s new CEO formerly served as Chief of Defence Force;
- Gerard Koh Keng Swee – SMRT’s Chief Corporate Officer formerly served in the SAF for 24 years;
- Lee Ling Wee – SMRT’s Chief Executive Officer (Trains) formerly served in the SAF for 16 years;
- Anson Lim – SMRT’s Head of Safety & Inspectorate formerly served as Chief of Staff for Singapore’s 6th Division.
- Dawn Low Kar Mun – Managing Director of SMRT Commercial formerly worked in the Public Affairs department of MINDEF for six years;
- Tan Kian Heong – Managing Director of SMRT Buses & Roads Services formerly served in the SAF for 20 years; and
- Ng Bor Kiat – SMRT’s Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President (Future Systems) formerly served in the Defence Science and Technology Agency (under MINDEF), and as Chief Maintenance and Engineering Officer when seconded to SAF.
SMRT’s former Director of Train Operations, Alvin Kek, could also have been part of the military men within SMRT’s top management had he not been demoted after he was arrested and charged for his latest drink-driving escapade.