SMRT’s COO Who Was Convicted of Drink-Driving Demoted to Senior Vice-President of Rail Operations

When you hold a high position in a big company, you’re expected to follow certain norms of society: just ask Elon Musk. People are now doubting his ability to be a CEO, and stocks of his company Tesla tumbled 2.75% after his Twitter outburst, whereby he insulted a member of the Thai boys rescue team (though to be fair, the caver started the whole ordeal).

Closer to home, we have Alvin Kek, ex-Chief Operations Officer of SMRT Trains, whose name slid into headlines for the wrong reason.

On 21 April this year, Kek was done with a drinking session with colleagues near Bukit Timah Road, and for some inexplicable reason, drove all the way to Woodlands Checkpoint. That’s apparently a blessing to other road users as he was caught reeking of alcohol.

At about 3:00 a.m. then, he told an ICA officer that he had made a mistake and did not intend to leave Singapore. He was then revealed to have 65 microgram of alcohol in 100ml of breath – almost double the limit of 35 microgram.

According to reports, he then had four mugs of beer, and was drinking to de-stress as his father just passed away a week before the event.

Charged and Sentenced to Two Weeks’ Jail

He was then charged and suspended from work immediately.

Later last month, he was sentenced to two weeks’ jail and fined $4,000. He will also be banned from driving for three years.

Why So Serious?

The issue isn’t what happened earlier this year, but why it happened again. This is his second conviction for drink-driving, having been convicted in 2004. Back then, he was merely fined $2,800 and banned from driving for two years.

The military man turned chief operations officer

Mr Kek didn’t used to be Mr Kek: he used to be Colonel Kek, and COL Kek used to be a Chief Engineer Officer.

Back in 2013, when Desmond Kuek joined SMRT, Alvin Kek was one of the four military men drafted into the then troubled company.

So, after all these, what’s next?

The Yellow Ribbon, SMRT Style

Despite a grave mistake, SMRT did not fire the man; instead, he was demoted to senior vice-president of rail operations. He would also forfeit his annual bonus for 2019 and would take a pay cut.

This was what SMRT told Channel NewsAsia about the decision:

“SMRT takes a serious view of employees’ conduct and actions which adversely affect the Company’s interests and reputation, regardless of whether this occurs in the course of work or otherwise.

“SMRT notes that Alvin has shown remorse for his actions and apologised to the Management and staff for his lapse in judgement at a recent staff town-hall. He also penned a letter of apology to take full responsibility for his personal misconduct.

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“Notwithstanding that this is a personal misjudgment with no safety impact to operations, Alvin has been severely disciplined and demoted by job grade with a corresponding pay cut.

“His entire annual bonus will also be forfeited. He has been counselled and warned that he will be dismissed if there is any further misconduct.”

In the meantime, lest you’ve forgotten, Desmond Kuek would be stepping down as SMRT CEO and would be replaced by former chief of defence force Neo Kian Hong, whom many who have served with him know him as a man who doesn’t tolerate nonsense or wayang.

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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