SCDF ragging death: Victim showed fear, resisted being put into fire station well, says witness

The Tuas View Fire Station where Corporal Kok Yuen Chin died during a celebration for his impending ORD on 13 May 2018. (PHOTO: Google Street View screengrab)

SINGAPORE — Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, a full-time national serviceman (NSF) with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) who died during a fatal ragging incident, had resisted being put into his fire station’s pump well on the night of his death.

The 22-year-old had also shown fear in the lead-up to being pushed into the 12m-deep well at the Tuas View Fire Station on 13 May last year, said Lance Corporal Mohamed Rabik Atham Ansari in court on Wednesday (12 June). Kok, who could not swim, drowned in the well.

Rabik, who was 22 and serving national service at the time, was testifying on the third day of the trial against Lieutenant Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, 38, and First Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 41.

Chong and Nazhan were the commanding officers of the SCDF rotation on the night of Kok’s death. They each face one charge of helping a group of rotation officers cause grievous hurt to Kok by failing to prevent the men from making Kok enter the well.

Victim gave ‘scared smile’: witness

Rabik’s description of Kok’s reactions contrasted with the testimony given by an earlier witness, who claimed that no one had pressured Kok to enter the well and that he had not expressed fear about doing so.

According to Rabik, Kok had given a “scared smile” when “kolam” (Malay for “pool”) was mentioned during a party held earlier during the night to mark the latter’s impending Operationally Ready Date (ORD).

A witness on Tuesday had described “kolam” as being a regular practice involving putting fellow SCDF officers into the station’s well, usually as part of a celebration.

Asked how he knew Kok’s smile was a “scared” one, Rabik said, “Because Kok and I are friends, so I know difference between (a) normal and scared smile.”

Chong’s lawyer, Wee Pan Lee, objected to this statement and asked, “If you have not seen him frightened or scared how do you know how Kok would react if he was frightened or scared?”

Rabik, who served in the same rotation as Kok, replied, “Because I spend about four months together with him so I know...He always smile, so I see difference between good smile or scared smile.”

Wee then rebutted to suggest that Kok’s expression that night was one the showed he was “under pressure” as opposed to being frightened or scared. Rabik agreed with Wee’s description.

During the prosecution’s re-examination, however, Rabik recalled an occasion two months before Kok’s death when the latter had also given a “scared” smile. Kok had done so amid an exchange with a superior officer during a morning equipment check.

Victim resisted being put into well

Following the Kok’s ORD celebration in the station’s control room, a group of four men – including Rabik – carried Kok towards the pump well.

Rabik said that Kok had “mildly” struggled by “wriggling” his body as he was being carried. Rabik then returned to the control room to collect Kok’s boots.

Upon returning to the well, Rabik witnessed Kok removing his personal belongings while the other officers surrounded him. The group then urged Kok in Malay to enter the well, said Rabik.

One of the officers, Staff Sergeant Al-Khudaifi Chang – who testified on Monday –then spoke up to reassure Kok that he would be safe. According to Rabik, Al-Khudaifi told Kok that if anything happened to him, a swimming instructor named Sok Leng would come rescue him.

Kok then replied “Jangan encik” in Malay, which means “Don’t, sir”.

“Kok keep on refusing to go in. We all thought, ‘Okay since he doesn’t want to go in, (we can) go up already have our dinner but at this instance Fatwa came from behind and gave Kok a push,” said Rabik, referring to Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood.

Fatwa was jailed 13 months on 23 October last year for his role in the incident and is currently on a home detention scheme. Meanwhile, Staff Sergeant Adighazali Suhaimi, 33, who deleted a video recording of Kok being pushed into the pump well, was sentenced to one month’s jail in December last year.

A fifth officer charged over the incident, Warrant Officer 1 Mohamed Farid Mohamed Saleh, has not been dealt with.

Also in court on Tuesday was Kok’s father, Kok Meng Hwa, who told Yahoo News Singapore that he took leave to sit in on the proceedings and would continue to do so when he can. The 57-year-old construction worker said he had previously seen only a portion of the CCTV footage of the incident but had watched the whole video during the trial.