SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek stepping down; to be replaced by another ex-Chief of Defence Force

Mainstream media publications reported early this morning that SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek is stepping down from his post after nearly six years. Another former chief of defence force, Neo Kian Hong, has been tipped to be Kuek’s successor and it has been reported that the 54-year-old who currently serves permanent secretary for defence development may take over Kuek’s post in August 2018.

Articles from The Business Times and The Straits Times that are hidden behind a paywall are already reporting that Kuek is the outgoing CEO and that observers hope that Kuek’s expected successor can hit the ground running.

An announcement confirming Kuek’s departure is expected to come soon, perhaps as early as today.

Kuek addressed rumours that he will be resigning from his post in January this year by telling the media that such rumours are “purely speculative” in a television interview.

Rumours that the top executive will resign erupted amid mounting public frustrations over persistent train issues in recent years. Many Singaporeans have clamored for a change in SMRT’s management after the frequency of train service breakdowns appeared to increase last year.

These calls intensified after the train collision in Joo Koon in which at least 38 individuals were injured, and the unprecedented Bishan tunnel flooding that inconvenienced countless passengers after services along the North-South line were suspended for almost an entire day.

Public outrage against the transport operator grew after investigations into the tunnel flooding revealed that a maintenance team that was supposed to carry out works in the tunnel did not do so for almost one whole year but falsified records that they did.

In January, SMRT’s Vice President of Corporate Communications Patrick Nathan stepped down from his post – a move that led many to believe a top management shakeup at SMRT is impending.

The Straits Times had reported then that Kuek could be the next top executive to resign:

“The public’s call for change at SMRT has become louder since the latest spate of incidents, which included a tunnel flooding that was traced to wilful negligence of maintenance. Observers are expecting chief executive Desmond Kuek to step down as well.”

The paper also played up the role of new SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming and reported that he will become an “active chairman” and play a more “hands-on” role.

Several sources like PeopleWorldwide Consulting’s managing director David Leong also foresaw the shift of leadership away from Quek: “The shift of leadership from the CEO to the chairman is obvious.”

Quek’s last public comment on the matter, simply calling resignation rumours “speculative,” was notable since it was neither a confirmation or a denial of speculation that he would step down.

As an unrelated but interesting side note, when The Independent reported in October 2016 that Singapore Press Holdings will retrench hundreds of staff, Deputy CEO of SPH (English Publications) Patrick Daniel responded that such rumours are speculative.

One year later, the conglomerate confirmed that it is indeed cutting hundreds of jobs

SMRT CEO Desmond Quek neither confirms nor denies resignation rumours


  1. one paper to another paper General. the result is the same but only how thick is their skin. from 70 gsm to 100 gsm.

    shameless after getting almost $10 million for doing volunteer work.

  2. Really? Haven’t they learnt? Why cant they appoint a professional to position. Somebody from the public rail sector, local or foreign? Why must it be another paper general?

  3. SMRT like many GLC are treated like another amry division where the leadership batons are passed from one desktop general to another. U will not be shock how much tax payer monies are used to maintain this network of generals

    • Should refresh his course and prove it to us, dunking in MRT flood, 1 week survival course in the tunnel no food no water and last day send all the staffs with sticks hunting him down and beat the shit out of him without telling the answer. He is qualified MRT CEO!

    • I am ranger train and have good endurance plus good responsiblity. But operating an corporate business is not about physical, mentally, endurance, attitude, responsible. It is all about capability and skills in that trades. No business can wait for you to develop and endure 5 to10 yrs later, then to say you are Ok now. Imagine there is no MRT the next morning, and the next next morning, afternoon…… will you still say these nice words.

  4. Stepping down or stepping stone to another board pr companies. If stepping down retired happily with family BUT if redeployed to another office is simply stepping UP OK…

  5. Just imagine a really qualified phd trained engineerings university graduates with experience being taught by a nobody. Same as a student teaching teachers/lecturers how to teach.

  6. I don’t understand, educate me please. Generals running private organisations, skills set and domain are totally different. How will they make it work? If you require military man, there are those that specialised in engineering and maintenance, those are the guys to bring in. Than again, military run by authoritarian way and not commercial entities. Never learn. How many times do we need to fail and spent millions in tax payers monies before we learn?

  7. the whites will arrange for the useless CEO to take up another highly paid post in another state owned entity just like the ex-Ministry of transport, resigned and became chairman of safra collecting membership fee. Cronyism at its very best!!!!

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