The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has accused Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan of evading responsibility for the repeated train service breakdowns and system failures that have been plaguing public trains in the country.
Calling for the Minister to step down in a statement on their website, the SDP indicated that the Minister has a habit of blaming others for rail issues and “continues to enjoy the enormous salary that he clearly does not deserve.”
The statement follows a press conference last week where Khaw and SMRT’s top brass – SMRT CEO Desmond Quek and SMRT Trains chairman Seah Moon Ming – bowed and apologised for the tunnel flooding incident that caused a massive North-South Line (NSL) breakdown two weeks ago.
In the country’s first train disruption due to flooding, six stations were shut down – affecting a quarter of a million commuters.
We re-publish the party’s statement in full here:
In keeping with the PAP culture of claiming all the glory while avoiding any responsibility, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has yet again placed blame on everyone but himself in the latest incident of flooding in the MRT tunnel.
Mr Khaw pointed his finger at the SMRT staff and said that they had “failed us”. As a result, the leader of the unit in charged of anti-flooding maintenance was removed and the team members will have their bonuses cut.
Such action would have sufficed if the incident was an isolated one. But breakdowns and other serious lapsesof the train system are a common, even regular, occurrence that have gone on for years.
The breakdown of the Downtown Line 3 during its open house is just the most recent one in a multitude of train system malfunctions. Glass panels at train stations have shattered, the inside of train carriages have leaked during heavy rains, and brand new trains have even been found to have cracks in them.
In 2016, two SMRT workers were killed at the Pasir Ris Station. Investigations showed that the tragic accident occurred because safety procedures were not followed – for 14 years.
All this took place under Mr Khaw’s watch. Yet, the Transport Minister has managed to cast the blame on someone or something else on each and every occasion. Disciplinary action against staff members have been taken and fines imposed.
But as the minister-in-charge of such a shambolic system, Mr Khaw remains in his post and continues to enjoy the enormous salary that he clearly does not deserve.
SMRT CEO Mr Desmond Kuek blamed the woes that have plagued the system on “deep-seated cultural issues” within the company.
Such an observation is indicative that the problems extend well beyond employees of SMRT. It falls on the lap of the minister whose responsibility it is to change the organisation’s culture if it is found wanting.
The fact that he has failed to tend to this problem all these years signals Mr Khaw’s incompetence and lack of leadership. As Minister for Transport, the buck stops with him.
Until and unless there is demonstration of real leadership at the very top, one that accepts blame rather pushes it, there will be little motivation for the rank-and-file at SMRT to change its work culture, and the problems that beset our train system will continue, even worsen.
Clearly, it is time for Mr Khaw to stop apportioning blame for SMRT’s failure. He must take responsibility for the on-going fiasco not just in word but also in deed. He must step down.