Friday, December 7, 2012

No Easy Days

What lieutenant-general Desmond Kuek plans to do says much about his leadership style. Instead of spearheading the resources at hand in a well staffed SMRT and lead the troubled transportation company out of its own muddied waters, he is bringing in lower ranked soldiers to do the necessary.  One such person is a colonel slotted to the hot seat of director of human resources, whose vaunted experience with handling personnel is being head of national service affairs.

In his "The Godfather" trilogy, Francis Ford Coppola shows how the mafia top dogs buffer themselves with layers of "buttons" or foot soldiers who do the dirty work. Final accountability and responsibility are alien concepts to these guys.

Mark Owen, the former member of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development group (a.k.a. SEAL Team Six) who wrote the first hand account of the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden ("No Easy Day"), was shocked to discover that the Al Qaeda leader's AK-47 and Makarov pistol found in his room were not even loaded. He pulled out the magazines and checked the chambers. Both were empty.
"He hadn't even prepared a defense. He had no intention of fighting. He asked his followers for decades to wear suicide vests or fly planes into buildings, but didn't even pick up his weapon. In all of my deployments, we routinely saw this phenomenon.  The higher up the food chain in the targeted individual was, the bigger a pussy he was. The leaders were less willing to fight."
(page 249, "No Easy Day, The Autobiography Of A Navy SEAL")

Former Rear Admiral Lui Tuck Yew does it better. Instead of gearing up to do battle and check out the "deep-seated issues" - such as why SBS can afford to pay its drivers better - he wants to simply pass the cost of the unnecessary overheads to the commuters. Bus driver's wages are just one component in the balance sheet, productivity and efficiency also contribute to the bottom line. But what do these paper generals know? Their table top war games are all about feeding soldiers to the front lines, while the generals primp and mouth fancy speeches.

Singaporeans may not be as emotional as the Hongkong protestors. But they sure do know who the real culprits are. "There is no honor in sending people to die for something you won't even fight for yourself," wrote Mark Owen.


  1. Singaporeans ought to protest if they raise the bus fare. The $1.1 billion given to SBS and SMRT seemed to drop in muddy waters. Salary of all bus drivers may not even add up to 5% of total cost. Have they checked the salary of the management? Why are commuters paying the CEO millions for something that is public?

  2. We do not mind paying top management millions if they do a good job. The way I see, they hear nothing and do nothing much.

    Instead of listening and finding out the real problem, SMRT boss just bring in their kar ki nam. Will this solve the problem or create more trouble? What do you think?

  3. Why are we subsidizing SMRT with $1.1 billion dollars?
    But SMRT is not subsidizing the public by freezing management pay and shareholders' dividends?

  4. day by day we can see the incompetency of our overly well paid government!

  5. "There is no honor in sending people to die for something you won't even fight for yourself," wrote Mark Owen.

    Do generals bother when foot soldiers are expendable and not forgetting that our PM was a general who had experience with at least a real operation, the rescue of people trapped in cable cars.

    1. Whoa then the one who oversee the operation in the storming of hijacked SQ plane, killing all the 4 Pakistanis(armed with firecrackers and knives) must be a war hero?

    2. You mean the general who ordered a barge with a tower to be built to reach the cable cars, but did not realise the tide would have gone out by the time it was finished? Or that the final helicopter rescue was completed late at night in darkness when the the operation would have been safer to execute in the daytime, right after the morning accident?

    3. The story re that rescue was that the man was in all of a dither, and someone else had to eventually get him and the cable car riders out of the fix. There was a Lot of talk then that the BG just dint cut it.

  6. it seems that the ministers only understands linear graphs with just two variables. Bus driver pay rise is proportional to bus fare. Hence pay increase = fare increase !

    So easy, primary 5 student can be minister too ! No wonder dr jia jia is so popular !!

  7. Professor Lim Chong Yah's shock therapy has two components:
    1) a wage freeze for top earners
    2) a wage raise for the poorest, 15 per cent in each of the first two years and 20 per cent in the last year.
    While they make token payouts for (2), they are avoiding (1) like the plague - for obvious reasons. You think they pay Desmond Kuek peanuts?

  8. Once again me calls on Singaporeans to rid off all soldier boys in the Government.

    In the Traditional Chinese Wisdom, no soldier will ever make a good ruler. Empirical evidences abound to the extend that the Chinese Philosophy has concluded that 好男不当乓。


    1. You can only get rid of the paper Generals in Govt if you vote Opposition.

  9. PAP-MIW Joke

    Q: Why do female PAPigs douche with honey and lemon juice?
    A: Because both Limpeh & Pinky like sweet and sour pork.

  10. We can expect cleaner buses after stand by bus parades, PRCs drivers who can understand Malay military commands etc. SMRT has gone from handbag salesgirl to military management, wonder what the MIWs will think of next or is this their idea of thinking out of the box?

  11. It is okay to bring in competent and PROVEN people to replace deadwood. What I am afraid of is that they have not learned the lesson and history will repeat itself. The problem with the previous team is that a wrong type of person (retailer) was recruited to run a transport company, and she brought her cronies (also retailers) to help her run the company into the ground.

    Now, we have an ex-general parachuted (pardon the pun) into a transport company. Was the general in charge of military transport - specifically rail transport? (I am not aware of railways run by SAF). And now this general is bringing his cronies, equally unqualified and unproven in running a commercial entity to run SMRT.

    1. The world will end on21 Decemner. It may be a joke but for some, the prediction may be true albeit given it + or - a few years.

  12. Some of the "did not turn up for work" Ah Tiongs already spot crew cut look similar to NSFs...What the CEO need to look for in MinDEAF is a RSM to keep everyone in order

  13. With the safety records of SAF............ will SMRT be jinxed????

  14. Hope people can understand that we need to vote in more alternative parties into power. We should not vote for incompetent fools and party. We must not vote for just economic but also social and moral reasons.

  15. Two points the Transport Minister seem to have made.
    It was the Hard Truth afterall that the SMRT bus drivers, especially those from the PRC were underpaid.
    It was a simple job to raise fare to pay the drivers more!

    May I humbly suggest, they cut the top brass' bonus and their pay.

    Better still, nationalize the SMRT and SBS. Forget that competition bull shit. Never worked in Unique Singapore.

  16. Why does the PAP Minister still use the word "may" increase the bus fares when on the other had he is already saying it is due for review new year ? Is it really that difficult for our PAP Minister just be honest right from the start instead of still trying to fool us by playing with his words ?

    Why did the Zorro Minister appear and open his mouth now only when everything is in the clear ? Does he has a pussy ?

  17. Is the strike merely a wayang as an excuse to increase fare?

  18. If they wanna increase fare, then the useless CEO has to go first.

  19. Like father like son.

    First it was the public listed SIA instructed to convert plane into a flying hospital for his wife.
    Now it is the son taking public funds to pay for the capital expenditure of public listed SMRT.

    What sort of crap is this for both Father & Son to allow it to happen ?

  20. Keep voting Opposition in GE 2016.
    Keep making donations to Opposition parties.
    It's the only way to keep our bus fares under control.

  21. Pay decent wages for jobs.

    They keep quoting "market rates" but we know the market is imperfect and particularly, the singapore job market does not reflect the true value of worker input to production.

    The influx is artificial. If business owners calculate that wages are too expensive then they should move out. If there are skills mismatched, its the business owners who should proactively train workers. Why should Gahmen provide the particular skill for free?

    Business owners wants:

    Cheap labour
    Skilled labour
    Safe environment
    Efficient transport
    Compliant labour
    Stable politics
    Predictable policies

    But you cannot have

    cheap & skilled
    Intelligent & compliant

  22. Change the government.
    And you change your life for the better.

  23. For almost fifty years, locals tolerated with the pigs, giving up their freedom and rights hoping to have a better future - proper low cost housing, a simple car, a family, good healthcare, good education. Singaporeans realised that their future is not better but worse - expensive housing, no car, no family, expensive and no good healthcare, stressful education. Why would locals continue to vote pigs?

  24. Where is the meritocracy and getting the people with the correct merits to fit the jobs in this new set up? Didnt the Prime Minister just said that we dont want to go the road of Guanxi, relatives, comfortable linkages etc?
    Now we have a Xgeneral telling us that he will get his battalion of inexperience corporate world rookies into a sick trainline operation.
    Saying this after he went for a long holiday despite the 170 workers strike, and only two months into the job as a CEO?
    If he cannot get the current HR to sack the incompetent directors and staff, why is he the CEO?
    As a start, he should call a forum of all singaporeans who can give him the correct feedback, propose the correct solutions, swallow the bitter pills, and serve the people of Singapore. We, the people of Singapore, and soldiers of the SAF (All the Way All the Way) will use our core expertise in rails, transportations, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, contracts, management, whole supply chain of a service transport provided, tempered by years working in the global arena, to help the MRT. It is our MRT system. It is the people's MRT system. We build it, we financed it, we should be controlling how we run it.

    But please please, dont take in the incompetent arrogance soldiers (colonel, majors, sarkars)to man our transport operations. Experience with retired officers discovered that they dont make the cut, even as Operations Managers in Schools, Managers in Security companies, or even supervisor in cleaning contractors.

    Be bold. Advertised in the papers. Do the Singapore's Way. Interview the Singapore applicants. And get the correct fix. (but please please sigh, please dont use th advertisement as a shadow to finally get the inexperience colonels into your new set up. )