Did Kuek spread “fake news” when he said news of stepping down was “purely speculative” after he offered to resign?

Last week (19 Apr), SMRT announced that it had conducted a “global search” before deciding on former Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Neo Kian Hong as the person to replace Desmond Kuek as its new chief executive.

ST also reported that Kuek had, in fact, offered to resign soon after the tunnel-flooding incident occurred in Oct last year.

“The Straits Times understands that the search for a new chief executive was initiated when Mr Kuek, 55, offered to resign soon after last October’s tunnel-flooding incident. The new chief was among 20 candidates considered for the role,” reported ST.

On 7 Oct last year, train service was disrupted after Bishan tunnel was flooded after a heavy rain. It was later found that the pumps in the tunnel had not been maintained for many months but quarterly maintenance records continued to be signed off and submitted deceitfully.

Investigations also found that vice-president Tay Tien Seng and senior manager Ivan Kok failed to exercise sufficient supervision during the period when the falsification of the pump maintenance records occurred, SMRT revealed.

In Nov, SMRT fired eight staff for falsifying the pump maintenance records. Three other management executives, including VP Tay, have also been disciplined for failing to exercise the due care in supervising and managing their staff.

Hence, feeling guilty for the whole record falsifying incident, as CEO, Kuek probably also felt responsible and offered to resign but the news was not made public.

However, rumors of SMRT finding a new CEO to replace him began to surface.

“purely speculative”

On 25 Jan this year, when confronted by reporters to confirm the news of his offer to resign, Kuek dismissed talk that he would be stepping down, saying reports of his impending departure were “purely speculative”.

ST reported this in its report (‘SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek says talk of resignation “purely speculative”‘).

At the time, he was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event to launch a programme aimed at further assisting the elderly and those with special mobility needs.

He had also sent an e-mail to his SMRT staff addressing the speculation about his future. He said the market talk about stepping down had generated ground concern that must be addressed.

He wrote in his e-mail, “I would like to assure you that when I do, one day as we all must for leadership renewal, you will hear about it from me first. It will not be through some speculative piece in the newspapers.”

But then again, the newspapers turned out to be right about his impending stepping down from SMRT.

So, the question here is, did Kuek told reporters and his staff a “fake news” in Jan this year that news of his impending departure were “purely speculative” when in fact, he did offer to resign soon after last year’s tunnel-flooding incident?