Wee Pan Lee & Low Chang Yong act for one of the Accused
SINGAPORE — The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) commanders could not have known that Corporal Kok Yuen Chin would be thrown into a pump well, as there was no plan to do so and they did not order it.
And the fatal incident would not have happened if another officer, Staff Sergeant Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood, had not pushed the full-time national serviceman into the 12m-deep well.
This was the case that the defence lawyers of First Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan Mohamed Nazi and Lieutenant Chong Chee Boon Kenneth laid out during their trial on Monday (June 10) afternoon, as they took turns questioning the prosecution’s first witness, Staff Sergeant Al-Khudaifi Chang.
Nazhan, 41, and Chong, 38, were charged with not preventing their subordinates from making Corporal Kok enter the well on May 13 last year. Chong was the commander of his team, Rota 3, at Tuas View Fire Station, while Nazhan was the deputy commander.
Corporal Kok was three days away from completing his National Service stint with the SCDF. The 22-year-old, who did not know how to swim, later died from drowning.
Earlier on Monday, Staff Sergeant Chang testified that he thought he and his teammates were merely trying to scare Corporal Kok while carrying him to the well. He added that they did not intend to throw him in.
Chong had remained in the watch room while they carried Corporal Kok out to the well. At some point, he opened the window, stuck his head out and told them not to film anything.
Chong then closed the window and did not look into their direction anymore.
While cross-examining Staff Sergeant Chang, Chong’s lawyer, Mr Wee Pan Lee, asked him if Chong could have identified the individuals when he stuck his head out.
Mr Wee contended that Chong would not be able to do so as everyone had their backs to him, and would not be able to tell if Corporal Kok was in the group.
Staff Sergeant Chang agreed that Corporal Kok was blocked from Chong’s view, as he was surrounded by people. Chong opened the window after they set Corporal Kok down on the ground as well.
Mr Wee also asked Staff Sergeant Chang whether anyone in the watch room could hear what was happening outside if the window was closed.
“If shouting, yes, but not normal conversation,” Staff Sergeant Chang replied.
He noted that neither Chong or Nazhan was present earlier that morning in the locker room, when Fatwa asked Corporal Kok if he was “ready to go into the well, or kolam”.
Corporal Kok was also well-liked among the team, and the atmosphere in the watch room later, where he was presented with a cake and a plaque, was light-hearted, Staff Sergeant Chang said.
WAS IT RAGGING?
Nazhan’s lawyer, Mr Singa Retnam, questioned whether Staff Sergeant Chang knew that what they were doing constituted ragging. At the time, anti-ragging posters were placed around the premises of the fire station.
One of them read: “We want no ragging in the SCDF. It is a punishable offence.” It also said that offenders would be “severely dealt with” by detention, dismissal from the SCDF, a reduction in rank, or a fine.
“Nothing here says anything of criminal prosecution,” Mr Singa said. “Did you think (what you were doing) was ragging?”
“No. If it was ragging, we would have thrown him in forcefully in the first place but we just placed him outside (the well), not knowing anyone would push him in,” Staff Sergeant Chang responded.
“Would you say that if Fatwa did not push him in, this incident may not have happened?” Mr Singa asked.
Staff Sergeant Chang said yes, adding that no one had pressurised Corporal Kok to enter the well.
The trial, which is expected to go on till June 21, continues on Tuesday.
Prosecutors said they will call Fatwa, who is currently serving his prison sentence, and Staff Sergeant Ng Meng Kiat, who found Corporal Kok at the bottom of the well, as their next witnesses.
Original Article – https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/scdf-ragging-death-commanders-unaware-nsf-would-be-pushed-well-says-defence