From iTODAY:SMRT CEO resigns immediately
Sumita Sreedharan | 7 Jan, 2012 11:23 AM
Rail operator appoints interim chief executive with experience in engineering, construction
Singapore - SMRT president and chief executive officer (CEO) Saw Phaik Hwa resigned yesterday evening with immediate effect, less than a month after the MRT system suffered two of its worst breakdowns on record which led to calls for her to step down.
According to SMRT board chairman Koh Yong Guan, Ms Saw had spoken to him of "her desire to move on during 2012" on Dec 7 - a week before the first five-hour breakdown hit parts of the North-South Line. SMRT's filing with the Singapore Exchange said the 57-year-old was leaving "to pursue personal interests".
SMRT board member Tan Ek Kia will assume interim executive responsibility for the management and has set his sights on rail operations, while the Board conducts a search for a new CEO.
Mr Tan, a board director of SMRT since July 2009, said he would "work quickly" to ensure that SMRT's management has the support to deliver "reliable public transport services to commuters". "My focus will be on ensuring that we meet our commitment to public to provide reliable public transport services. I will put a particular emphasis on rail as the cornerstone of our public transport system," added Mr Tan.
In its media statement, SMRT noted Mr Tan's "diverse experience" and previous appointments in engineering and construction, safety and operations. This is a contrast to Ms Saw's background in the retail industry, said UOB Kay Hian analyst Toh Yong Rui. "SMRT is signalling its intention to refocus on its core rail operations and assure the public that all efforts are made to ensure the smooth operation of its rail transport system," added Mr Toh in an emailed note.
Ms Saw's appointment as CEO in 2002 raised eyebrows among analysts, due to her 19 years' experience in duty-free retail chain DFS Venture Singapore.
Her resignation yesterday also came as a surprise to some SMRT staff, who first heard about the news through an internal staff memo Ms Saw sent just before 6pm. On Dec 18 - a day after the second disruption hit the North-South Line - Ms Saw said she was "staying put" to "put everything right".
In the memo yesterday, Ms Saw said that she was leaving the company in good hands, but with "a heavy heart". Ms Saw acknowledged in the media statement that "the time was right for the Board to look at new leadership" for SMRT. She will, however, remain with SMRT to assist the relevant investigation teams and the Committee of Inquiry (COI), as well as the transition to a new leadership.
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew is scheduled to deliver a ministerial statement about the breakdowns when Parliament sits on Monday.
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