Law Minister K Shanmugam: SMRT should take their job seriously!

Ouch. It must be somewhat discouraging to SMRT to hear such a direct remark by Law Minister Mr. K Shanmugam. But what intrigues me most is a comment by Azhar in that article. He wrote, "Law minister commenting on something the Transport ministers should be doing. Uniquely Singapore indeed."

So has there been any comment from Mr. Raymond Lim yet? I'm not sure, but I'm curious to learn what his opinion about the SMRT graffiti vandal case is.

The recent vandalism incident at SMRT's Changi depot has sparked debate over who should be responsible for security on premises like train depots.

Is it the Government's job, or should the responsibility fall on SMRT?

To Law Minister K Shanmugam, the answer was clear - the rail operator's security is its own responsibility and the cost of beefing up its defences should not be borne by ordinary Singaporeans.

Speaking to reporters at a community event yesterday, Mr Shanmugam, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs, said it is impossible and unacceptable to require taxpayers to pay for the security of thousands of profit-making entitles in Singapore.

"Is it fair for the public, through the Government to pay for that security either in manpower terms or in terms of the costs?" he asked, noting that SMRT is a listed company and that its profits are shared among its shareholders.

Mr Shanmugam added that SMRT is not a Government entity and declares dividends that go to shareholders.

So, why should non-shareholders foot the bill to protect SMRT's facilities?

He said: "If we are not shareholders, we won't get the dividends. So you have to ask yourself - should the broader community of 3.2 million citizens and other taxpayers ... be paying for the security costs when the profits of the company go to a group of shareholders?

"The reality is (that) it is a company, it has got its own structure, it has got its own management, it has got its own security arrangements and they have got to take it seriously," he said.

Mr Shanmugam said that private sector organisations, like the SMRT depot, have been gazetted as a protected place but the security of the premises is the company's responsibility.

The Government would then provide a framework on how security should be provided for the rest of the buildings, he added.

For example, if a facility is categorised a protected place, the closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) and the monitoring of security has to be the responsibility of the company itself, he added.

And because SMRT was responsible for transporting millions of commuters, they should take their job seriously.

He said: "We mustn't start with the mindset that something can never happen again. I think what we need is a very robust, thorough system to minimise the risk of security lapses happening."

Mr Choy Kin Chong, SMRT deputy director of security and emergency planning, had said their employees had thought the graffiti on the train was an advertisement.

It was only when the MRT train was recalled to the workshop for scheduled maintenance that they had realised it was an act of vandalism.

SMRT has since raised the number of security personnel and patrols at its depots and will also more-than-double the number of CCTVs.

Swiss national Oliver Fricker has been charged with vandalism and trespass for the May incident.

He returns to court today, while his suspected accomplice - Briton Lloyd Dane Alexander - is at large and is wanted by the Singapore police.

Mr Shanmugam said the law here treats everyone - whether foreign or local - equally.

"But the message in Singapore is, there are certain things which are red lines and you don't cross them," he said.

If convicted, Fricker could be jailed up to three years or fined up to $2,000.

He also faces three to eight strokes of the cane.

From Today, "SMRT is responsible, says Shanmugam".

LAW and Second Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam reiterated yesterday that the security of places like MRT depots should be a partnership between the Government, private corporations and the public.

It is not the sole responsibility of the Government, for if it were so, taxpayers would end up paying the bill for the security of private sector companies.

'You ask yourself: Is it fair? When you say Government, ultimately the people pay for it,' he said.

'We have thousands of private organisations which are profit-oriented and make money for their shareholders. It is impossible, and unacceptable, to require the taxpayer to pay for the security of all these profit-making companies, both in terms of the manpower required and the sheer cost,' he added.

Speaking on the sidelines of a community event in Sembawang GRC, he was replying to reporters' questions about the role of the Government in preventing security breaches at MRT depots.

Some netizens have recently charged that the Government should take responsibility for the security lapse at the Changi depot and not shift the blame on to SMRT.

From Straits Times, "Taxpayers 'should not pay'".


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