'I didn't think about right or wrong': Witness testifies in 1999 molest case involving ex-NUS prof

Wan Ting Koh
Reporter
(Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

An eyewitness in the ongoing trial of a former National University of Singapore (NUS) professor said he did not think about “right or wrong” when he saw the accused allegedly molesting one of the Secondary 1 boys during a camp in 1999.

Recalling the incident, the now 32-year-old man testified on Tuesday (21 August) during the second tranche of the trial that he had observed Dr Chan Cheng first massaging his schoolmate’s thigh before touching his groin area. The witness was 13 years old then.

The 57-year-old former professor of psychology stands accused of molesting five Secondary 1 boys on 29 June 1999 amid a three-day school camp.

His charge sheets state that he used criminal force to rub or touch the private parts of the 13-year-old students while they were staying at the now-defunct 1 Singapore Infantry Regiment Guillemard Camp along Old Airport Road.

The camp lasted from 28 to 30 June and involved all the school’s Secondary 1 students. The school has since merged with another secondary school.

On Tuesday, the witness, who cannot be named to protect the victims’ identities, said he was sitting on the upper deck of a bunk bed with his schoolmate similarly seated on the bunk bed opposite him.

Sometime after midnight, Chan allegedly entered the room and stood at the side of the victim.

The witness testified that Chan then asked the victim if his leg was in pain, to which the boy replied “a bit”. Hearing this, Chan allegedly massaged the boy’s thigh before then massaging the boy’s private parts in a circular fashion two to three times.

This took place in full view of the witness, who noted that Chan did not try to hide his actions. The victim was frozen and his eyes widened as if in shock, but he did not do anything, said the witness.

After Chan walked away, the victim asked the witness if he saw Chan touch his private parts and the witness replied “yes”.

However, when asked by Chan’s lawyer Ramesh Tiwary whether he thought the incident was wrong, the witness said, “At that time, I don’t think anything. Do not think whether right or wrong.”

The witness only spoke up about the incident after a teacher asked for molest victims or witnesses to step forward following the camp.

Hazy recollections

There were, however, details about the camp and the incident that the witness could not recall.

For instance, he could not remember how he knew the incident took place after midnight, simply stating that “it was dark”. He was also unsure of how he knew the molest incident occurred on the first night of the camp.

Similarly, while he remembered taking part in “team-building activities” during the camp, he could not specify the exact type of activities.

Asked by Tiwary if he remembered participating in a reflections activity at the end of the day, or if the students were punished with a quick march, the witness said he could not remember.

The witness is the sixth person to have testified against Chan, who was 39 at the time of the alleged offences.

During the first tranche of the trial, the four victims testified that Chan had molested them in separate incidents between 12.30am and 6am. One was allegedly molested after he emerged from a shower, while another testified that Chan had applied powder to his armpits and private parts. 

Chan, who was well-known for his research into juvenile delinquents and child psychology, was charged with 12 counts of molesting nine schoolboys in 1999 but he failed to show up for a court hearing scheduled for 29 November that year. 

Then a lecturer in the NUS’ Department of Social Work and Psychology, Chan also failed to show up for work and was last seen in university on 23 November. He was deported back to Singapore on 7 December 2016 from an undisclosed country and stood trial for his charges in April this year.

The trial will continue on Thursday with the school’s former principal and discipline master expected to give their testimonies.

Related story:

Ex-NUS don on trial for molesting schoolboys after 17 years on the run