SINGAPORE — A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) rotation commander accused of failing to prevent a fatal ragging incident on Monday (10 June) denied being aware of any plan to push the victim into a pump well at the Tuas View Fire Station.
Lieutenant Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, 38, was also unable to see if the late Corporal Kok Yuen Chin had been in the group at the well at the time of the incident, said his lawyer Wee Pan Li in court.
Kok, a 22-year-old full-time national serviceman, drowned on 13 May last year after being pushed into the 12m-deep well as part of the celebration to mark his impending Operationally Ready Date.
After receiving a plaque of appreciation in the station’s control room at around 8.50pm, Kok was then carried by a group of officers to the well. Kok, who could not swim, was initially left at the edge of the well before he was pushed in by another officer.
Chong, who was in charge of the SCDF personnel on duty at the station at the time, has claimed trial to one charge of helping a group of his officers cause grievous hurt to Kok through a rash act.
First Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 41, who was the deputy commander at the time, has also claimed trial to the same charge.
No plan to put victim in station’s well: lawyer
On Monday, Wee cross-examined the prosecution’s first witness, Staff Sergeant Al-Khudaifi Chang – one of the group of men who had carried Kok to the well.
Wee said that Chong had trusted his men well enough not to push or compel Kok to do something he would not do and that the final shove that land Kok in the well had been unexpected.
“It is my case that there was no plan at all to bring Kok and throw him into the well…. Neither was there any plan to use peer pressure, psychological pressure to compel him to go into well,” said the lawyer. Al-Khudaifi agreed to both statements.
Wee argued that none of Kok’s colleagues had any ill intention towards Kok, a statement which Al-Khudaifi agreed with.
Incident wasn’t ragging, says witness
Al-Khudaifi had earlier told the court that Nazhan had accompanied the group to the pump well but left for his office after 10 minutes.
Chong had remained in the control room, and later stuck his head out of the window to tell the group not to film the incident. The officers had raised their arms in response, said Al-Khudaifi.
However, Wee argued that Chong had not been aware that Kok was at the pump well nor was he able to see if Kok was present at the spot. In response, Al-Khudaifi said that Chong’s view of Kok could have been blocked by the other officers.
During the cross-examination, Nazhan’s lawyer Singa Retnam also asked the witness if Kok had expressed any fear from the time the pump well was mentioned in the control room until he entered the well.
“When standing there at edge, was he frightened or nervous?” asked Retnam, to which Al-Khudaifi replied that Kok had not shown fear.
Al-Khudaifi testified that the pump well had been jokingly mentioned to Kok and that he latter had laughed in response.
When asked if he believed the incident was ragging, Al-Khudaifi said, “It was not ragging. If it was, we would have thrown him in forcefully but we just placed him outside, having no thought that anyone would push him in.”
Asked to describe Kok, Al-Khudaifi said the former had been a “very happy go lucky person.
“I rarely see him get angry or frustrated, (and he is) always doing (things) with a smile and is well liked by his colleagues,” he added.
“I have never seen him get upset. So I would not be able to tell (if he was upset).”
The trial continues on Tuesday (11 June) with Fatwa taking the stand.