SMRT chief to tap military men for key posts

Mr Desmond Kuek (in blue shirt), president and chief executive officer (CEO) of SMRT, at the town hall meeting with Chinese SMRT drivers on 3 November 2012.

SINGAPORE - SMRT'S new chief executive is calling in senior Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers to beef up command and control in the transport operator's set-up.

In one of his first planned tweaks to his management team, Mr Desmond Kuek - himself a retired lieutenant-general - is understood by The Straits Times to be hiring two or three senior SAF officers to take up key appointments in the coming months.

Sources said one is Colonel Gerard Koh, who is poised to join next month as director of human resources - a department that has been in the news since last week's bus drivers' strike. He has held various HR positions. His latest post is head of national service affairs.

The last military man at the SMRT HR department was retired colonel Low Ah Tee, a one-time HR general manager.

Mr Low and more than half a dozen senior executives retired or quit when retailer Saw Phaik Hwa helmed the SMRT between 2002 and January this year.

Sources said Mr Kuek, 49, intends to appoint another senior officer, a logistics specialist, to the bus division. It has not only been loss-making for years, but also made the news when 171 drivers from China went on an illegal strike.

The Defence Ministry said it did not comment on its officers' career moves. "We do not share such information with the press," a spokesman said.

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