20130729 SMRT spokesman abrupt resignation, what’s really happening?

It was reported 2 days ago that SMRT chief spokesman, Ms Kalai Natarajan, has handed in her resignation and will leave on Monday. link

Ms Natarajan’s resignation comes on the heels of a major reshuffle where 8 senior management staff joined SMRT after Desmond Kuek Bak Chye had become its CEO.

As if there were no suitably qualified applicants, CEO Kuek Bak Chye had also roped in 3 ex-colleagues from the SAF and RSAF who had no relevant experience working in a private organisation. http://www.smrt.com.sg/AboutSMRT/SeniorManagement.aspx

What is troubling is the various heads from the HR, legal, planning, businesses development, corporate communications, buses and trains have all been replaced in 2013. There is little assurance from SMRT when it employs Tan Kian Hong as VP of buses when he had zero experience after having spent his entire career in the SAF and the education sector. Lee Ling Wee, another ex RSAF personnel, was put in charge of trains despite his irrelevant experience in the management of aircraft and weapons systems. Perhaps the SMRT intends to arm our trains and convert them to aircrafts?

In the latest SMRT incident where a bus had overturned on 22 July, killing one passenger, SMRT selectively disclosed personal details of the driver except his nationality to the Straits Times. However, the driver’s identity was disclosed on Channel 8 news. SMRT PR stunt attempted to downplay the fatality after repeated recent breakdowns with tonnes of irrelevant information. This appears to have backfired as it insults even the intelligence of even 6 year olds.

Ms Natarajan could not have joined SMRT at a worse timing, fronting SMRT’s systemic failures for 5 months. She is no ordinary employee and for her to not ‘give face’ (notice) to SMRT, there must be more than meets the eye.
Her resignation is akin to a cabinet minister quitting Singapore Inc just months into the job.

Although SMRT had removed its heaviest deadweight costing some $1.8 million annually, it has no doubt added more less-costly ones i.e. those with irrelevant experience. The replacement of more than half of the senior management staff also spells trouble for commuters. (imagine half the Singapore Inc cabinet being replaced within months)

To quit after only 5 months into the job (with immediate effect), Ms Natarajan must have had overwhelming doubts of SMRT. This is in line with the negative public perception.

The frequent replacement of senior management are signs of a failing company. SMRT owes the public an explanation.

Phillip Ang

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