SINGAPORE — Two fire station commanders implicated in the ragging death of a 22-year-old full time national serviceman in 2018 were on Tuesday (15 September) jailed for 10 weeks each.
Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Lieutenant Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, 39, and First Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 42, had been found guilty by Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun in July of committing a negligent act endangering human life.
They had failed to prevent their subordinates from making Corporal Kok Yuen Chin enter a 12-metre deep pump well on 13 May 2018.
Chong was the commander while Nazhan was the deputy commander in charge of Tuas View Fire Station’s Rota 3 officers.
A total of five SCDF servicemen, including Chong and Nazhan, were charged over Kok’s death in July 2018.
The two commanders had initially been charged with causing grievous hurt by a rash act. They claimed trial and the judge amended their charges after finding that the prosecution had failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Chong then pleaded guilty to his amended charge while Nazhan claimed trial.
About the case
On Kok’s last day of duty on 13 May 2018, he was celebrating his impending operationally ready date (ORD) in three days’ time. Rota 3 officers gathered at the Fire Station’s watch room on the ground floor at about 8.30pm to commemorate his ORD with a cake and a plaque.
Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood then suggested that Kok partake in an ORD ritual of entering the pump well, or “kolam”, despite it being a form of ragging explicitly prohibited in SCDF.
Kok was reluctant to do so and he was carried to the well, which was filled with water to a depth of 11m. He was egged on to remove his personal belongings and sat at the edge of the well. Eventually, another officer, First Warrant Officer Mohamed Farid Mohd Saleh, told Fatwa to push Kok.
Fatwa did so and Kok fell into the water without resurfacing. He was found 36 minutes later and was pronounced dead by paramedics.
During the commanders’ trial, the court heard that Chong did not accompany his subordinates to the well but stuck his head out of a room window to tell the group not to film the incident.
Meanwhile, Nazhan followed the group to the well but left for his office before the incident occured.
In finding the duo guilty of their negligence charges, judge Ong said there was “no concrete plan” to carry out the ragging, which happened spontaneously. And the commanders did not order their subordinates to carry out the ragging either.
Fatwa “took matters into his own hands” and pushed Kok in, to the surprise of many of the servicemen, said the judge. This came so suddenly that the rest were not in a position to stop him, he added.
Chong and Nazhan also did not have an opportunity to intervene as they were not at the well. However, they showed a “dereliction of duty” in failing to stop a prohibited activity from being carried out, said the district judge.
“They are legally obliged as Kok’s commanders to ensure that Kok’s life and safety were not endangered while he was on duty. The onus fell on both accused to prevent ‘kolam’ from being carried out. Failure to do so amounted to illegal omission,” said the judge.
While their original charges carry a jail term of up to two years and/or a fine of up to $5,000, their amended charges are punishable with up to three months’ jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500.
Farid, who instigated Fatwa to push Kok into the well, was jailed for 13 months for abetting Fatwa to commit a rash act.
Meanwhile, Fatwa was jailed for one year for committing a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide and abetting Staff Sergeant Adighazali Suhaimi in the obstruction of justice by asking him to delete a video of the incident.
Adighazali, who filmed Kok being pushed into the well on his phone, deleted the recording at Fatwa's instigation. He was jailed for one month for obstructing the course of justice by deleting the evidence.
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