Neo contradicts his former boss Kuek saying there is no “deep-seated cultural issues” in SMRT

At a media briefing today (16 Nov), the new SMRT CEO LG (NS) Neo Kian Hong told reporters that the “deep-seated cultural issues” of human error or failure characterised by his predecessor Desmond Kuek do not exist within the SMRT.

“Based on my experience, our people want to do well,” said Mr Neo, “I do not agree with the term (deep-seated cultural issues), because that’s not my experience when I engage with the ground.”

To ensure staff perform, it takes good leadership as well as engagement with the ground, he said. LG (NS) Neo took over from his predecessor LG (NS) Kuek only on 1 Aug. Somehow, in the course of 3.5 months as CEO, he could tell that there is no “deep-seated cultural issues” in SMRT, contradicting what LG (NS) Kuek had said.

Last year, with lapses occurring frequently in SMRT including the infamous tunnel flooding incident, LG (NS) Kuek 4 that the problems in SMRT was due to “deep-seated cultural issues” within the organization.

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

In any case, LG (NS) Neo told the media today, “We plan to strengthen the organisation to meet the intended outcomes and stay focused on our core business which is trains. We also need to grow our rail engineering capabilities and capacity to be ready for the future.”

Neo used to report to Kuek

Both Neo and Kuek were military men from SAF and both were Chief of Defence Force at one time.

Neo was more junior than Kuek and used to report to Kuek.

When Kuek was Chief of Defence Force from 2007–2010, Neo was the Chief of Army reporting to Kuek with one rank below Kuek. Subsequently after Kuek left the SAF, Neo took over as Chief of Defence Force from 2010 to 2013.

It appears that Neo, now free from Kuek, has become bolder and would dare to say things that contradict his former boss.

So, who is right, LG (NS) Kuek or LG (NS) Neo?

Are there any “deep-seated cultural issues” in SMRT or not?