The following is a letter by Member of Parliament, Mr Seng Han Thong, to the National Transportation Workers’ Union (NTWU).
Dear brothers and sisters of NTWU,
1. The recent series of breakdown incidents in our SMRT system has raised the attention of the public. You have had to work extra hard to repair and maintain the system during this period. Your exemplary performance is the pride of NTWU and will be duly recognized by the Singapore public.
2. I know that it was you, the workers standing at the front line, who were facing all the stress and pressure from the public commuters, every minute and second when we tried our very best to resume the train service. May I thank you for your service to the travelling public.
3. In the recent Blog TV programme, I expressed my view that SMRT needs to improve on the public communications during an emergency. I recalled I heard on the radio a view that cited our workers’ difficulty in English is a reason for the communication problems at the MRT stations.
I disagreed and said that even broken English should be acceptable.
4. Unfortunately, in trying to defend you, I made the mistake of only mentioning our “Malay” and “Indian” workers where the original quote in the radio interview I was commenting on had cited MRT staff of different races, “Malay, Chinese, or Indians or any other race”.
5. My wish to defend you was further taken out of context and misconstrued by The Online Citizen. Their misleading title “MP Seng Han
Thong: SMRT’s unpreparedness also due to Malay and Indian staffs (sic) English language inefficiency” (Dec. 21), made it look like I was blaming any unpreparedness during a emergency on your language inefficiency.
6. I understand that this episode has hurt the feelings of our workers, as well as other Singaporeans, and I apologize to you for this misquotation. I never had any intention to belittle or push the blame of the recent MRT breakdown to the workers of SMRT. Having been executive secretary for NTWU for many years, I am well aware that our workers are competent to communicate with the public in English. That is why when I heard on radio that our workers had difficulty with English, I disagreed . So in my Blog TV interview, I tried to make the point that our not so perfect English should not prevent us from communicating effectively with the public, especially in times of emergency.
7. These are challenging times for you and SMRT. I am sure you will rise to the occasion and work in cooperation with the management to restore public confidence in our train system.
8. Once again, I ask for your understanding and urge you to work together to get MRT back in good shape. I salute your hard work at the frontline of our public transport system!