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The SMRT’s decision to sack two of its employees over the deaths of Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari and Nasrulhudin Najumudin earlier this year raises serious questions.
The first is that the dismissals have taken place before official investigations are completed. Even the victims’ families have questioned such a move.
Contrast this with Hepatitis-C outbreak in 2015. In that case, disciplinary action was taken against 12 staff members in “leadership positions” at the Singapore General Hospital. The Ministry of Health (MOH) also disciplined four MOH officers holding “director-level or equivalent roles” over the incident which resulted in eight deaths and 22 infections with the virus.
The sanctions, ranging from warnings to financial penalties, were meted out only after an inquiry into the saga was completed.
In the present SMRT case, however, even before the inquiry is completed, the SMRT had no qualms in sacking two of its employees.
Second, one of those fired was named by the Straits Times.
In the Hepatitis-C case, Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong said that the government did not want to create a “blame culture” by revealing the names of these senior staff members even though they were found to be culpable of “failure to intervene early” over the outbreak.
How did the Straits Times obtain the identity of the SMRT driver who was sacked and why was it reported? Whatever happened to the no-blame culture the PAP adopted which protected those in the Hepatitis-C debacle? Why is it applicable only to the senior administrators but not to the SMRT train driver?
Third, by taking action against some of its staff in such a manner, the SMRT may be unjustifiably absolving its other staff members – especially those at the highest levels – of any responsibility over the mishap. Such an approach is reminiscent of the Mas Selamat incident where junior officers were blamed and those at the very top got away scot-free.
Fourth, does the Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan support the decision to dismiss the train driver? If he does, he needs to explain why. If he does not, he needs to instruct the SMRT to do the right thing by reinstating the positions of those sacked, pending the completion of official investigations. In the meantime, he should demand an explanation from the SMRT why it made the premature decision to fire the employees.
When SDP CEC Member Mr Jufrie Mahmood met and questioned Mr Khaw at the funeral of one of the victims of the track accident, the Minister promised that he would leave no stone unturned in the course of the investigations. A good place to start would be the SMRT’s unilateral and non-transparent actions over the sackings.
How the PAP and the establishment handles this incident will be a grave test of how it views justice in our society.