When the Prasarana boss went off the rails

Tajuddin's press conference should not have added insult to the injury already suffered by the passengers

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If the recent head-on collision between two light rail transit trains near the KLCC station was shocking to many Malaysians, the press conference held by Prasarana Malaysia Bhd chairman Tajuddin Abdul Rahman was equally disturbing, if not revolting.

His public misconduct jarred with the gravity of the accident that involved 213 passengers, of whom 64 needed medical care at Kuala Lumpur Hospital with six in critical condition and 15 others in semi-critical state. Reports said three suffered from brain haemorrhage.

For an accident that was so serious, traumatic and injurious such as the one that occurred underground on the busy Kelana Jaya route, you would have expected Tajuddin to come well prepared with the details of the crash and the victims at his fingertips – instead of relying on ‘prompters’ by his side to provide the much-needed facts. Or at the very least, the Pasir Salak MP could have scribbled the numbers and other details on a piece of paper so that the supposed explanation or clarification would run smoothly – and he could have made himself look like a chairman who was on top of things.

You don’t instil public confidence when you struggle to get the right number of critically injured passengers and desperately try to make the life-saving distinction in English language between “ventilation” and “ventilator”. Such seeming unpreparedness suggests a ghastly lack of empathy and compassion from the head of a corporate body that runs these trains in which the public, particularly the ill-fated passengers, put their trust in safety features and precautions.

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Worse, the levity that peppered the otherwise sombre occasion was obviously misplaced. There is a time and place to tickle the journalists’ funny bones – and this wasn’t it. For instance, with a slight chuckle he described the collision as two trains “kissing each other” when asked by a journalist about the condition in the tunnel. The loved ones of the passengers, let alone the victims themselves, would not have been amused by such use of passionate language, to say the least.

A press conference should be treated as such, an occasion when journalists are trained to be curious and ask questions. Hence, it was most inappropriate of Tajuddin to be condescending and get into a rage when asked for his response to calls for his resignation, which he considered as unnecessary provocations.

Just to be clear, the journalists were not the ones who demanded that he resign. It was other people, including the Public Transport Users Association, who made such a demand because they were concerned about the way he handled this incident.

Incidentally, an online petition also demanded his resignation.

This incident has also brought into question the calibre and qualifications of heads of other government-linked companies as well, all of whom are politicians from the ruling Perikatan Nasional pact.

As in any other press conferences, clarifications of certain issues were sought. Hence, the journalists asked why Tajuddin didn’t rush to the scene of the accident on the day it occurred.

He replied he was caught up in a company meeting and was also informed of it later. Irritated by such journalistic curiosity and to show his supposedly serious concern, he loudly insisted he went to the scene “first thing in the morning”.

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At the end of the press conference, he asked where a particular woman journalist came from.

“China” was the response, to which he rudely quipped, “no wonder!” – as if that added value to the meeting.

Social media users, who were offended by his behaviour, hurled brickbats at him and also pointed out that he did not wear a mask, which violated the standard operating procedure of the current movement control order, although he had a face shield.

Such a press conference should not have added insult to the injury already suffered by the passengers. – The Malaysian Insight

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