But Ms Kalai Natarajan had solid credentials, previously a director at Oglivy Public Relations Worldwide, and had been in the marketing communications and public relations business for no less than 18 years. Prior to Oglivy PR, she was Assistant Vice-President of Sales & Marketing for MediaCorp's TV12 and Head of Global Media Relations for Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts. At SMRT, she was overseeing three departments with a staff of 50: corporate communications, marketing and media and passenger service.
So when she resigned after only 5 months on the job, without having to serve the obligatory 3 months notice period for senior management, and without another appointment lined up, tongues were wagging like the hanging power cables of a SMRT train mishap.
An HR expert speculated that there may have been a “cultural misfit” if senior management staff were “not on the same wavelength”. Or same battle dress uniform, since quite a few of the senior management new hires were former SAF personnel, mostly retired or close to retirement age, imported by Lieutenant General (NS) Desmond Kuek. Forced to choose between a little black dress or green army fatigues, the smart lady decided to fall out.
Her replacement has practically zero PR experience. Patrick Nathan, 51, had joined SMRT in 2011 as director for Security Operations and Readiness. Prior to that, he was at the National Security Coordination Centre (NSCC) shuffling papers on esoteric topics like policy, risk assessment and corporate communication. He has the one important qualification that matters to Kuek though. Nathan is a former career army officer who was with the Ministry of Defence for 24 years and 9 months. Officially he joined the SAF in 1979, promoted to colonel in 2004 and seconded to the NSC as deputy director until he "retired" in 2006. Old soldiers don't just fade away in Singapore, they are put out to pasture at SMRT.
You know what they say about Mussolini, at least Il Duce ("the leader") made the trains run on time. Unfortunately for us, the general in charge of Singapore just excused himself, "the trains will take a bit longer (new signalling, new lines, more rolling stock, etc)... that will take a few more years, 2015, 2016, but we are making a lot, as much haste as we possibly can." Sigh, there are generals and there are generals.