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Dismissal of SMRT employees over fatal accident raise questions from public, even from victims’ family

The news of the dismissal of two staff over the fatal accident in March this year, raise pertinent questions over the grounds in which SMRT has decided upon to take disciplinary action against the two employees, especially the train driver who has been ruled to be notresponsiblee for the accident.

Mr Rahmat Mohd, 49, the train driver involved in the accident in March, had been assigned to a non-driving job after the accident. According to The Straits Times, he was called to the SMRT office yesterday for an internal inquiry and discharged right away afterward.

Responding to queries from Today Online, 33-year-old Nasrulhudin’s eldest brother Nasrifudin, a civil servant said that his family was shocked to hear about the sacking of Mr Rahmat. He said, "He could be the breadwinner of the family so we are also sad for him."

While Asyraf's cousin, who wished to be known only as Mr Khai said, "They should wait (for the inquiry). We have to accept the situation as it is. The takeaway from all this is that hopefully, none of this happens again."

He also said that all the staff involved in the accident, as well as their colleagues, would have been “affected emotionally and mentally”. Therefore, it would be better if the operator based its disciplinary actions on the Coroner’s Inquiry.

However, he said that his family is thankful for the support from the SMRT following the tragedy.

The National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) executive secretary Mr Melvin Wong said that a letter was sent to SMRT by the union, which asked the company to withhold any disciplinary action until official investigations are complete to avoid any prejudice that might come.

He said, "We will now review the situation, study the grounds for SMRT dismissal, and work with the affected staff on the next steps. The union will continue to render affected staff the necessary support and assistance during this difficult time, as we have since the incident."

Based on the findings by an Accident Review Panel formed to seek out the cause of the fatal accident, it is discovered that the vital safety protection measure of setting a code to ensure the speed limit on the affected track sector to 0 km/h so that no train can enter on automated mode was not applied. Neither was the deployment of watchmen to look out for approaching trains and provide early warning to the work team.

The panel noted that as the train was on automated mode when the accident happened, he was unable to prevent the accident despite having applied emergency brakes immediately when he saw the staff on the track.

It is uncertain why the train driver was fired given that the panel has not pinned any responsibility of the accident to the driver.

Given that the findings of the panel found systematic lapses of safety measures which resulted in the tragic accident, however after coming close to six months, SMRT has not shed light on why the lapses took place in the first place and who was involved in lapses to ensure that the safety measures were not enforced despite giving the go-ahead to go onto the tracks.

The report was given to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Land Transport Authority (LTA), and Singapore Police Force (SPF) so they could assist the statutory investigations.

It was also said that a Coroner’s Inquiry would be held after official investigations concluded which is expected to meet early next year. While earlier, LTA had said that its investigations would be completed in the third quarter of this year.

SMRT spokesman Patrick Nathan stated earlier that the company does not comment on staff disciplinary measures when asked about the incident.

The victim's family was not the only one who questioned the decision of the sacking by the company. Some said that it was only looking for scapegoats.

Wei Seng Teo wrote on Facebook that there were lots of missing details, such as lapses included allowing a train to ply in automatic mode while workers were on site, not deploying watchmen to look out for approaching trains, and failing to provide early warning to the work team. Was the train drivers informed there are workers on site?

In the end, he said, "If the driver was not informed, he should not be responsible."

Here are some other concerns posted by TOC readers :

  • Salihin Hin wrote, "The sacking of the driver was a convenient move. None of the observed mistakes in the investigation was the responsibility of the driver. He did execute emergency brakes, which was too late. CEO, Head of safety should be sacked instead."
  • Wilson Chong wrote, "This is why you need a STRONG UNION, to keep check and balances. Prevent abuse of $$ from the top management and seek accountability, not just from the lower level staff and also the million dollars CEO/Directors. These days, 'ownself-check-ownself' is getting out of hand."
  • Yem Kadok wrote, "This is what happening in Singapore. The one who work for hard earn money always gets to be the scapegoat while the high ranking sit shake leg n fuck people every day get the chance to be the scapegoat."
  • Chris Yong wrote, "To quote the minister, 'In Japan, the CEO and board of directors will call a press conference and take a deep bow, and in the good old days, they may even commit hara-kiri.'"
  • Kitaro Kong wrote, "'Fish rots from the head'. When incident causing life happens, the top management must take full responsibility, in this instance, the CEO should be fired!"
  • May Chua wrote, "Witch hunting process. ..simple..the guy at the bottom of the food chain gets sacrificed! So what happens if it's a driver-less train? Explode the train?"
  • John Loh wrote, "SMRT and Minister of Transport are still covering up the actual death of the 2 Trainees. They were behind the Engineer. Cannot run and cannot jump. The reason because they were electrocuted to death before the train hit them. Now all we need is one whistleblower to come forward and tell the truth. This wouldn't happen because this is a cover up and the staff wouldn't dare to go against the Government."
  • Wyeming Ho wrote, "Just wonder why the small guy is fired and not the head honcho? Bloody cowards. What is the point? Frighten all the small guys? Fire the head honcho and employ a more competent one."
  • Scott Lim wrote, "I suppose SMRT staff should be under Union. But again our Union is... Uniquely Singapore. You know what I meant."
  • Ong Alan wrote, "Members of the public are not stupid. You fire a train driver for no reason ah? Supposed to go one still there. On the grounds, one end up getting the sack. I at the bet end of the day even if he wanted to say the reason they also most probably shut him up. Brilliant!"