The issues that have plagued Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in the last few years are nothing new. Despite the many statements that have been made, the problems appear unabated. In fact, they seem to be getting worse.
First were the delays, then there were the train cancellations - last year 2 employees were tragically killed while doing maintenance works on the tracks. Just barely 2 days ago, a collision occurred which has led to multiple injuries, further delays and cancellations. Is this a trend that is set to continue?
Before any incident can be satisfactorily resolved, the cause of the problem has first got to be identified. Any measures taken will be futile if the root of the issue is not first uncovered and dealt with. Glossing over an existing problem will only create a ticking time bomb.
Firstly, let us talk about the subject of transparency. In the wake of the collision, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SMRT issued a joint statement stating that two trains "came into contact" and that "23 passengers and 2 SMRT staff sustained light to moderate injuries".
Is this an accurate account of what has occurred or is it an attempt to downplay the gravity of the incident in the hopes that it will die down?
Major media outlets such as CNA are calling it a "collision" - which really, it is! Why are they using words like "came into contact" which makes it seems like nothing more than a 'car bumper kiss'? By its own admission, 25 people were injured. If it were merely two trains coming "into contact", would there be injuries at all? A passenger on the train has written in to give his account of what has happened which certainly sounds a lot more serious than the statement is letting on.
The joint statement is also worded in very absolute terms - i.e. that only "23 passengers and 2 SMRT staff" were injured. There was no caveat to say "at the time this statement is issued, we understand that 23 passengers and 2 SMRT staff have been injured. We will update the public on the situation as investigations commence." While this may not be an intention to keep the public in the dark, it does highlight the prevailing attitude within the establishment not to accept that it may not be in control of everything. How can it begin to uncover the full extent of the problem when it won't even admit that there may be certain things that it may be unaware of?
As I am writing this I understand that the number of injured currently stands at 36 – Almost 1/3 more than what the joint statement had so unequivocally pronounced.
Next, we have the issue of accountability - why is K Shanmugam talking about Khaw Boon Wah's previous successes at the Ministry of National Development (MND)? Mr Khaw's accomplishments at another government department are wholly irrelevant to the MRT failures. Again, it showcases a lack of acceptance for responsibility - wasting time and resources with deflection and defense as opposed to a plan of action on how to resolve the ongoing MRT issues. As suggested by politician and activist, Lim Tean, shouldn't the buck stop with Khaw? No buts, no ifs.
As early as Oct 2017 (before the collision took place), the SDP has already called for Khaw to step down which of course went unheeded.
Lastly, I would like to note the government's reticence at full disclosure. In the face of deaths and injuries (not to mention numerous delays), Mr Khaw is still evading the need for a full Committee of Inquiry (COI). Regardless of the findings of an investigation, a COI is still needed. The MRT is funded by public funds and heavily utilised by the masses. In the face of so many incidents, the public deserves a full account of what is going on. It is concerning that Mr Khaw still does not, at this juncture, think it necessary.