News of the Day: Departure of SMRT CEO Allegedly Planned Since Oct 2017


We’re not the only ones who were not surprised by SMRT chief’s departure: it turns out that everyone was expecting it.

Today Online spoke to several staff members and they were kind of expecting it, too.

Late last year, calls for SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek to quit have been made, but on 25 January 2018, during an interview, he flatly denied his departure, saying that it is “purely speculative”.

Since then, we’ve continued to live with breakdowns, curses and whatnot. And as Uber and Grab decided to get married, we forgot about the MRT because our beloved ride-hailing industry is going to change altogether.

But of course, it all changed yesterday, when we got to know that Mr Kuek is indeed leaving.

So, what exactly happened?

According to Straits Times’ understanding (don’t bother to go in, it’s “Premium”), Mr Kuek had offered to resign soon after last October’s tunnel-flooding incident near Bishan MRT Station. It was also during this period that the search for a new chief was initiated.

Interestingly enough, there were 20 candidates being considered for the role. It was a global search so they have also shortlisted people from other countries to head the company.


No doubt that has caused some uproar like this letter from a Today Online reader: why couldn’t they find someone within the organization to promote?

Or to just stop looking for ex-generals in general.

Mr Kuek would be taking a break before moving on something else.

Prior to Mr Kuek, SMRT was run by Saw Phiak Hwa for more than nine years without much issues until the double breakdowns in 2011.


Yeah, this Saw Phiak Hwa (kee chiu if you thought this happened 25 years ago!)


Mr Kuek served six years as the CEO of SMT.

Now, here’s why people are happy about the change of CEO

SMRT’s new CEO from 1 August 2018, Neo Kian Hong, is also a former Chief of Defence Force. He is known to be a respected soldier (just read the comments on Facebook about his appointment).


One of the most memorable statements made by Mr Desmond Kuek is that SMRT has “deep-seated cultural issues” within the company.

And this isn’t something that can be solved overnight.

Some netizens felt that Mr Neo Kian Hong might be the best guy for the job, given his track record for whipping people into shape.

Image: Facebook

Other than being known as a “no-nonsense guy” who would “stop people from wayanging”, he was the commander for the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) in 1999 and is fondly known by many as one of the main fighters of SARS back in 2003.

Bonus: Interesting Tidbit

Did you know that this isn’t the first time Neo took over stuff from Desmond Kuek?

Neo Kian Hong took over the position of Chief of Defence Force from Desmond Kuek back in 2010.

And now, he’s taking over the position of CEO from the same guy.


Interesting, no?

Now you know what Singaporeans are talking about today; do check back tomorrow for another piece of news of the day!

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