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Defective Trains: “Discuss Things Openly, Tell People The Truth”


Unlike most articles taking SMRT, LTA and MOT to task, I want to address the transport issue to Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam personally. He’s not the minister responsible. So, why him?

For one, I have plenty of respect for Thar-‘man’. He is probably the most qualified and proven minister in his job. He’s respected internationally not just domestically like so many self-vaunted ministers/ex-ministers who could only land jobs in GLCs but not MNCs once out of their million$ posts.

Another reason: as a Singaporean of Indian descent, he has it in him a natural openness to debate, talk over issues. Noble laureate Amartya Sen did not author ‘The Argumentative Indian‘ for no reason. The Indians were philosophers long before the Greek or the Chinese ones appeared as embryos.

And, of course, Mr Tharman was the person who preached, ‘Discuss things openly, tell people the truth.’

In truth, he also famously told Singaporeans that their right to know stops if he simply says so: “People do want to know, there is curiosity, it is a matter of public interest. That is not sufficient reason to disclose information. It is not sufficient that there be curiosity and interest that you want to disclose information…it serves no strategic purpose,‘ he said in Parliament over the Charles Goodyear ‘resignation’ even before he started work at Temasek in 2009. Remember that one? As citizens, we had no ‘strategic interest’ to know something that affected the management of OUR hard-earned CPF money! Walau!

So, now, Mr Tharman, surely the very safety of high-speed train commuters are a paramount concern to you. Surely, there is curiosity, public interest to understand why it took a foreign investigative team to uncover the defective trains before LRT and MOT came out with such well-prepared explanations. Surely, surely, we wish to know, nay, we must know what exactly happened, the works! LTA processes, the chain of events unfolding, the negotiations etc to understand what if any cover-ups for complacency (?), for incompetence (??), for possible corruption (???) might have occurred?

Whilst the minister of transport has direct responsibility, you as DPM, you who preach open discussion and telling the truth, surely you must demand answers for us voters and citizens.

How about it, Mr Tharman? Will you see to it that you practise what you preach, ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’? How about starting with these 2 questions:

1. If the defects were not ‘safety-critical’, why was it not discussed openly, told truthfully to us until LTA’s hand was forced by the report of foreign investigative journalists?

2. How is it ‘the appropriate thing to do’ and ‘value for our money’ to settle for rectification instead of new replacements for new trains delivered defective? You mean LTA negotiated such pathetic terms when signing the purchase order? How come?


But I wonder if a minister, junior to you, who preached the need to not cultivate ‘a blame culture’ may prevail over your sermon? Perhaps, it’ll be the cabinet’s collective decision to continue to fudge things up, to protect the cronies and fellow PAP-supporting civil service elites. Because, in protecting your underlings, PAP protect its own complacency and incompetence.

8 lives were lost in the Hep C mistake at the SGH. No one was brought to account openly and truthfully – all in the name of avoiding a blame culture. No life has been yet lost – yet – due to the defective trains. So, chances are dim that citizens will see the train fiasco ‘discussed openly, told the (whole) truth’. What’s more, the families of the 8 lives lost must have been paid off so obscenely with taxpayers’ money that they preferred to remain quiet instead of commencing a class action against those guilty of killing their loved ones. And, of course, the Health Minister never offered to resign.

Hence, the prognosis to ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’ is not good.


How many deaths do we need before we ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’? If a non safety-critical issue is being covered up, would we not inevitably develop a culture of more and worse cover ups…all in the name of avoiding a blame culture.


Mr Tharman, how does it feel to be a minister in a cabinet with such moral leadership values, of such distinction?


Law Kim Hwee


5 thoughts on “Defective Trains: “Discuss Things Openly, Tell People The Truth”

  1. If not for the scoop by a Hong Kong newspaper, the local papers and LTA would not have come clean about the defective trains. The fact that SMRT informed the Hong Kong MTR about this, yet Singaporeans are kept in the dark says a lot. Shouldn’t the Group Editor of the local newspaper resign because the Hong Kong papers reported on “an issue that happened right under my nose”?



  2. Now what we need is another investigative reporting from FactWire on the HDB lifts…. Oh, nevermind. FW is based in HK. LOL.

    People should be concerned about such cover-ups by this crony regime. I assume at some point in the near future, they will be flying Chinese made jetliners (so Temasek can stay invested in China?) and keeping quiet about any defect they discovered…


  3. /// Xmen
    I assume at some point in the near future, they will be flying Chinese made jetliners (so Temasek can stay invested in China?) and keeping quiet about any defect they discovered… ///

    Thankfully this may not happen soon. These jetliners are not certified by the US and European aviation authorities. Or maybe SQ and MI can deploy them on the China routes…..


  4. @The, thx for the link to Mr Mustapha Kamil’s resignation. I’m surprised no one wrote a commentary on that, especially given its timing coinciding somewhat with SPH’s reorg (if not mistaken). Or maybe I am unaware. Quite a few readers clicked on yr link.

    @Xmen, interesting point on the jetliners. I think the crowded skies are too small for more than Boeing & Airbus. Even the Japs with their track record have not shown an inclination to give it a shot. Smaller jets, yes. But not the liners. And the Russian-made ones? What’s the brand name again, anyone?

    I speculate that the Chinese will force their own airlines to do patriotic duty. Then either customers opting out of flights on those liners and/or some malfunction due to similar quality issues will ensure that the Communist govt’s ‘encouragement’ will fail in due course.


  5. Pingback: Defective Trains: The Sagely One Speaks | 2econdsight

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