SMRT CEO Saw Phaik Hwa resigns

UPDATED (8:46pm to include details on Tan Ek Kia)

chief executive officer Saw Phaik Hwa stepped down from her post on Friday afternoon following public outrage over train disruptions that affected thousands of commuters in December.

In a statement, SMRT said that its board of directors has accepted Saw's resignation, and that one of its members, Tan Ek Kia, will assume interim responsibility for SMRT's management as the board searches for a new CEO.

A filing with the Singapore Exchange by SMRT showed that Saw's resignation is effective Friday and the reason cited is "to pursue personal interests".

The 57-year-old, however, will remain with the transport group to assist in investigations into the disruptions to train operations in December, as well as with its transition to new leadership, according to a statement released by SMRT.

"The Board recognises the importance of this transition period, and this is why Tan Ek Kia will provide executive leadership while a search is underway for Phaik Hwa's successor," said SMRT chairman Koh Yong Guan.

Tan, who was named interim CEO, said he would work quickly to ensure that SMRT's leadership team has the support it needs to ensure the delivery of reliable public transport services for commuters.

"The staff of SMRT are aware of public expectations that we deliver on our commitment to learn lessons from December's incidents," said Tan, adding that he plans to place particular emphasis on rail as "the cornerstone of our public transport system".

Tan has held senior posts at the Shell Group of companies and was involved with the group's oil, gas and chemical businesses. He was chairman of Shell North East Asia from 1992 to 2003 and senior vice president of Shell Chemicals Asia Pacific and the Middle East from 2003 to 2006.

Commenting on her resignation, Saw acknowledged the time was ripe for leadership renewal.

"I have had the privilege of leading a group of very committed and loyal staff over the last nine years. I feel it is now time for SMRT to bring in new leadership and take the organisation to the next level," she said, adding that her announcement resulted from a discussion she started with Koh in early December last year.

"I also feel it is important for me to stay on and support the relevant inquiries, and the transition to the new leadership," she added, saying that she will assist Tan with SMRT's transition to its new CEO.

Saw's resignation comes after her previous decision to stay on as CEO despite calls for her resignation, saying she took responsibility for the incidents that happened in December and pledged to set things right.

Saw held her post of president and CEO of the company since 3 December 2002, according to the filing. She holds, as of Friday, in excess of 1 million ordinary shares in SMRT Corporation Limited, which amount to S$1.9 million based on its closing share price on Friday. She also holds some 14 directorships with its subsidiary companies.