SCDF commander told police he failed to stop junior officers' actions in fatal ragging incident

Wan Ting Koh
·Senior Reporter
Lieutenant Kenneth Chong Chee Boon (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
Portions of Lieutenant Kenneth Chong Chee Boon's statements given to the police were read out in court on Wednesday (12 June 2019). (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) senior officer on trial for his alleged involvement in a fatal ragging incident had earlier admitted in a statement to the police that he had “failed” to prevent the officers under him from putting the victim in their fire station’s pump well.

“I acknowledge that I failed in my duty as a superior to stop them from continuing the activity of getting (Corporal Kok Yuen Chin) into the well,” said Lieutenant Kenneth Chong Chee Boon in a statement given on 24 July last year.

Portions of three such statements were read out in court on Wednesday (12 June), the third day of the 38-year-old’s trial.

Chong and First Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 41, were both in charge of the Tuas View Fire Station’s Rota 3 officers on 13 May last year – the night Kok died. Both men face one charge each of helping the Rota 3 officers cause grievous hurt to Kok through a rash act by failing to prevent the men from making Kok enter the 12m-deep well.

Kok, who was then aged 22 and serving national service, had been carried to the well as part of a celebration to mark his impending Operationally Ready Date (ORD). He drowned after being pushed into well.

Knew of men’s plans for victim

In his first statement given to the police on 15 May last year, Chong described the station’s pump well being “used for fire engine open water suction training”.

“When I saw officers at the well, I knew they were going to make (Kok) go into the well,” he said.

In a second statement recorded on 25 May, Chong stated that he had “expected that (Kok) would be made to go down (to the pump well) on his own”.

“I only knew that the group of officers (were) bringing Kok to the well when I saw them already gathering at the well,” said Kok in his third statement on 24 July.

During the trial’s first two days, the court heard that Chong had not accompanied the other men to the well and had allegedly reminded the group from afar not to record videos of their actions.

While the group had initially left Kok at the ledge of the well while waiting for him to enter it voluntarily, another officer – Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood – pushed Kok into the well. The 34-year-old was sentenced to 13 months’ jail in October last year for his role in Kok’s death.

Lawyer challenges statements’ accuracy

Chong’s lawyer, Wee Pan Lee, challenged the accuracy of the police statements, claiming that his client had not seen the statements as they were being recorded by Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Mahathir Mohamad.

Wee argued that the statements were a “monologue” rather than a “dictation”, a point which ASP Mahathir disagreed with.

“I am putting it to you that during the recording there were many pauses where you stopped him and asked him to describe how this happened,” said Wee.

He added that the officer would then write a summary of what Chong said, instead of recording them verbatim. Mahathir also disagreed with Wee on this point.

Wee further claimed that the officer had a discussion with Chong on the meaning of the word “make”. “It means a person could enter the well on his own or it could also mean that person (could be) thrown involuntarily into the well,” said Wee.

Mahathir replied to say he would have written down only what Chong had said.

The trial will resume on Thursday with the fire station’s commander taking the stand.

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