Temasek owned Surbana Jurong seems to be losing quite a few of its senior members of staff lately. Just over a week ago, it was announced that its chief executive officer (international) Teo Eng Cheong has resigned to “pursue other interests”. It would appear that no successor has yet been announced to replace Teo.
For those unaware, Teo is married to Minister for Manpower, Josephine Teo and both were embroiled in a firestorm of controversy earlier in the year when it was alleged that building contracts related to the COVID-19 outbreak had been improperly awarded to Surbana Jurong. While these allegations were strenuously denied with the accusers issuing a public apology, there are those who remain sceptical.
Fast forward just over a week, it has now been announced that the scandal ridden Liew Mun Leong, whose former foreign domestic worker (FDW) has just been acquitted by the High Court of stealing from him, has also resigned. Once again, no successor has been named.
Both men were highly praised by Surbana Jurong. While Teo was credited for being instrumental in driving the firm’s business interests in Southeast Asia, North Asia and Singapore since joining the company in January 2016, Liew was given a glowing review for his “immeasurable contributions”.
However, if the work undertaken by both these men was so important, why is there no replacement immediately announced? If both men are as illustrious as Surbana Jurong has said, won’t their business suffer as a result of there being no one to immediately replace them? Not even a contingent one!
The Ministry of Finance has announced that the Changi Airport Group has appointed Tan Gee Paw as its acting chairman to take over the duties of Liew. How is it that Surbana Jurong does not need a replacement Chairman?
For Teo it has been just under two weeks. For Liew, the scandal has been brewing for a while as well. Surbana Jurong should have seen it coming no? If the roles are so crucial, surely by now they would have at least a contingent successor?
So, are these two men really so important? And if not, why have they been offered such high ranking roles in the first place? And, if they are not replaced, were they just there collecting a huge salary when they were not even needed in the first place?
The most recent example of Liew raises many disturbing questions around how Temasek views its corporate responsibilities to society.
When news first broke of the High Court’s ruling against him, Temasek was quick to rise to his defence, making the irrelevant implication that because he had contributed to Temasek and Singapore, that his potential criminality was acceptable.
With public anger mounting, Liew is then permitted to resign instead of being sacked. To top insult off with injury, Surbana has been absolutely glowing in its praise for him!
“Throughout his tenure, Mr Liew demonstrated the exceptional vision, leadership, courage and passion needed for Surbana Jurong to succeed, grow and serve its clients around the world…..His immeasurable contributions to the Group will not be forgotten. With deepest gratitude, we thank Mr Liew for his service and wish him the very best in the future.”
If Liew really possessed such great vision and leadership, why wasn’t he able to foresee the outcome of his potential lies? If he had such courage, why was he bullying his FDW as the judgement from Justice Chan Seng Onn would suggest, when the balance of power is so stark?
Putting two and two together, Liew resigned because of mounting public outrage at his seeming entitlement. Yet, looking at the praise heaped on him by Surbana Jurong, it would seem that he plays such a pivotal role.
But then, if his role is so crucial, why no announcement of handover from his sudden departure? No replacment? No interim?
Are Teo and Liew really irreplaceable or were they in those positions because of other reasons?