Silent Sit-in protest to be held on 4 November for frequent train breakdowns and latest flooding incident at NSL

Yet another sit-in silent protest is set to be held in Hong Lim Park on 4 November (Saturday) in light of the recent major service disruption in the train system at North South Line on 7 October (Saturday) and breakdown at Downtown Line on last Sunday.

The planned two-hour sit-in-protest that is being organised by Gilbert Goh and his volunteers, seeks to allow Singaporeans to show their displeasure at the frequent train break down and the latest mishap which was badly managed by the leadership of the transport company.

It was revealed that the flooding of the MRT tunnel which caused a twenty-hours termination of service for six stations was caused by poor maintenance of the anti-flooding system. A few days later, the Vice-President of Maintenance was replaced by SMRT as a response to the lapse.

Mr Desmond Kuek, Chief Executive Officer of SMRT said in a press conference on Monday that deep-seated cultural issues remain within the company that need more time to root out, despite some progress being made.

“Indeed, many of our major disruptions in the past have been attributed in some part, or all, to human error or failure,” Mr Kuek said. ” We regret that this is so.”

At the same press conference, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that if the anti-flooding system was well-maintained, the reservoir to hold the excessive rainwater should be empty before it starts to flow.

He then said, “”But I suppose that is life.”” after he revealed that the Land Transport Authority and SMRT made an earlier decision on 29 Sep to replace the pumps. His comments spurred a lot of unhappiness from citizens as seen in the comments that were posted on social media.

Mr Goh said to The Online Citizen that by pinning the blame entirely on the maintenance team is sheer hypocrisy on the part of the company and may not improve matters on the ground.

This is the second time that a silent sit-in-protest is organised at Hong Lim Park, the first being the protest against the Elected Presidency where the speakers were not allowed to speak on race issues as the EP was a reserved election.

The organisers said that they choose to organise a silent protest again this time round for the protest against the train breakdowns so that it can allow Singaporeans to drop by without any prejudice and be a non-partisan event.

Mr Goh’s concern might be true in some ways as speakers at such events are almost always from or affiliated with the political scene which might cause some concerns or rejection from members of public.

In reply to what the protesters can do over the two hour sit-in with no speeches arranged for the event, Mr Goh said that protesters can bring their placards to show their unhappiness and noted that the best placard this time round will win a prize from the organisers. The organisers will also lay several blank posters on the floor for protesters to pen their personal slogans.

Though silent sit-ins are rare in Singapore, but public protests at Hong Lim Park have been frequent in recent years. When asked if the government would react positively to the public display of unhappiness at the Saturday protest, Mr Goh hopes that the government will listen to the grievances of the citizens and improve the transportation services. While the public can be understanding but there needs to be some assurance that they will buck up.

“Singaporeans have suffer immensely and silently from their train failures for many years and its time we step up our protest so we wont be seen as taking it lightly” said Mr Goh.

Below is the write up of the protest by Gilbert Goh at the Facebook event page for the sit-in-protest

Singaporeans have regularly experienced frequent train break-downs for the past few years but the major one which happened almost two weeks ago is probably the last straw that broke our camel’s back.

Part of the tunnel at Bishan was flooded resulting in a prolonged 20-hour shut-down – it’s the longest break-down in history since MRT started operating almost 3 decades ago.

Years of maintenance negligence has resulted in a faulty train line which regularly breaks down and there are even emergency PSLE shelters for those who are taking their exam in the event of another peak-hour break-down!

Some have even joke that predicting a train break-down carries very little odds nowadays and to cap off a very tough week for the transport ministry, the official opening of another Downtown new line last weekend has met with yet another train fault! The transport minister now blames bad luck for the mishap on top of maintenance, track fault, media and resignalling which he has tried to pin the blame on throughout his horrendous reign as transport minister.

The latest saga also involves the failure of the leadership team to take rightful responsibility and right now unfortunately the minister decides to pin blame on the maintenance team resulting in a year-end bonus reduction. This is all right if the entire team including the leadership shares the penalty of the major mishap but most Singaporeans are aghast to know that fingers are again pointed at a small section of the transport work force.

If this happens in many other countries, the minister plus his entire leadership team will probably have resigned long ago or automatically opted for a pay cut to atone for their mistakes.

By resorting to only blaming a small section of the team for the mistake, it not only creates low morale within the entire team but also gives people the impression that its alright not to own up to your mistake if you are belonging to the top brass – the low-level staff will take the rap anyway.

The leadership needs to own up to their mistakes so that no one is beyond reproach especially the ones who are at the very top – their behaviour and ability to face up to mishaps must be the explemary hallmark of a good leader. By stepping down, the minister or CEO in fact earns the respect of those they led and they can leave the force in dignity actually instead of having to drag their feet around in a sinking ship in shame.

This second silent sit-in protest will have no speeches, no stage and no sound system – its meant for those who want to turn up to show their displeasure at the long-lasting disastrous transport system and also how the leadership handles a major mishap.

If you are affected in one way or another by our inept train system while going to work or returning home during the peak hour, do show up and make your stand this coming Saturday at Hong Lim Park at 430pm. By turning up, you are directly telling the authorities that you are unhappy with the transport system here and want to see concrete improvement.

We are tired of “We are sorry” meaningless apology, we want the transport ministry to come up with a definitive plan to improve train operations. Singaporeans are a understanding lot and we are not asking for a quick positive outcome but the faults must gradually be reduced and the management must emphatically inform the public about its over-haul plan so that they will be held responsible.

The train faults have being going on for far too long despite all the reasoning and blame and its time for the leadership to assure the public that they are in control of the situation or else…