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Malaysia's Finance Ministry fires Tajuddin as Prasarana chairman following PR gaffe

Malaysia's Finance Ministry fires Tajuddin as Prasarana chairman following PR gaffe

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Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance has fired Prasarana Malaysia’s chairman Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (pictured) following a PR gaffe during a press conference concerning the recent LRT Kelana Jaya train crash on Monday. Multiple media reports including The Star and The Straits Times said the Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz has terminated the services of Tajuddin as Prasarana Malaysia’s chairman “effective immediately”, but did not state the reason for termination. According to Channel NewsAsia, the collision between two LRT trains on Monday evening injured more than 210 passengers. Images and videos circulating online showed bleeding commuters and broken glass panels.

Tajuddin’s PR blunder began when he only showed up at the site of the crash on Tuesday and held a press conference from there. Instead of adopting a sombre tone, Tajuddin cracked jokes and according to Channel NewsAsia, said the two train cars “kissed each other”. When asked why he was not at the crash site soon after the incident occurred, Tajuddin explained that he had just finished his duties at the company and was only notified later of what occurred. At the same time, he was also preparing for his second vaccination and had intended to visit the crash site “first thing in the morning”. Tajuddin was also seen laughing during the press conference, according to the video published by TV3.

He also warned journalists not to “provoke” him when questions were asked about the calls for his resignation. Meanwhile, media reports also said Tajuddin made a racist remark to a reporter from the Chinese media outlet Phoenix TV when she posed him a question. Tajuddin is also being investigated for not wearing a face mask during the press conference.

Shortly after, president of the Malaysian Public Transport Users Association Ajit Johl criticised Tajuddin for his behaviour at the press conference, calling it “rude and disgusting”. Quoting Johl, the New Straits Times said Tajuddin’s reasoning shows “clear disregard for passenger care” and that it is “unbecoming” of a chairman of a company that is involved in transporting human lives on a daily basis. He therefore urged prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin to immediately intervene and remove Tajuddin from his role, at the same time calling for a Public Transport Safety Tribunal to be created with users represented during the inquiry.

Meanwhile, a petition demanding for Tajuddin’s resignation criticised him for his “lack of sensitivity and empathy” in managing the victims of the LRT train collision, adding that he is “completely unfit” to be Prasarana’s chairman. It also called him out for his “haughty” attitude during the press conference.  At the time of writing, the petition had 139,726 signatures and was declared a “victory” following Tajuddin’s removal from Prasarana. A+M has reached out to Prasarana for comment.

Tajuddin's gaffe even led to Star Media Group’s Wong Chun Wai writing an op-ed in The Star criticising the former of his behaviour. Wong said Tajuddin “deserves an ‘F minus’” for his crisis management due to his “arrogance and indifference” displayed during the press conference. Tajuddin came across as "ill-prepared" and "offensive" when he lacked details of the incident, and Wong said the former chairman should not have attempted to control the narrative. He also advised Tajuddin to control his composure when speaking to the media.

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