Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Cowboy Minister of Transport

The Transport Ministry had caused the casualty of two ministers in the past and is regarded by any incoming incumbent as a hazardous occupation. So PM Lee Hsien Loong was presented with a knotty problem in selecting a new Transport Minister. Quite understandably no courageous candidate would stick his neck out by volunteering. It so happened PM Lee had a sudden hunch that the post was tailored for the flamboyant Khaw Boon Wan who he regarded as a trouble-shooter. It also fitted into the flamboyant character of Khaw who saw this as a golden opportunity to flaunt his so-called extraordinary prowess.

Khaw was obviously tickled pink by the plethora of publicity surrounding his appointment. He was portrayed as a potential omnipotent rehabilitator of the notoriously inefficient rail system. He regaled the public with his knowledge of the mystique of the rail network and on how he thought its maintenance should be pursued. He spoke as if he was an expert on the intricacies of the construction engineering of the rail system. He would put his engineers whom he described as "rat-catchers" to make a comprehensive detection of any potential flaws in the maintenance of the technical construction. He appointed Mr. Tan Gee Paw, Chairman of PUB, as an advisor to the MRT as his so-called unique invaluable experiences in water supply maintenance are thought to be very apt and most useful in solving the rail maintenance problem. Mr. Tan appeared to be the person who coined the word "rat-catcher" to describe the engineers, who may not be amused. Khaw said maintenance is not sexy which may not be comprehensible to the public.

To be fair to Cowboy Khaw Boon Wan, his almost daily regalement could not but have attracted the rapt attention of the public but sometimes it may seem to be a little bit long-winded. And does his daily talk lull the keen sense of security of the public that rail disruption will be a thing of the past? The answer was almost instantaneous when the North East Line broke down on 26 October causing disruption to about 41,000 commuters in the morning rush hour. And all that Cowboy Khaw could exclaim was that it had tarnished our reputation and not a word to soothe the ire of the commuters. Well, this is not a very auspicious start of his watch and he will no doubt keep his fingers crossed that another disruption will not be so soon in coming until he is well prepared mentally to tackle such disruption to his well-oiled programme. To the Public he seems to be solely occupied with the affairs of the MRT to the exclusion of all else in his ministry. Over time he may yet prove that he is the right man for the job. Maybe he should try to open up his window a little bit and consider the nationalisation of the transport system as a panacea to all the transport ills. The only drawback is that this idea originated from the Workers' Party which is anathema to the PAP.

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