SINGAPORE — A rota commander and his deputy were sentenced to 11 months' jail and 10 months' jail, respectively, on Monday (26 April) after their original and more serious charges were restored upon appeal earlier this month.
Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Lieutenant Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, 40, and First Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 43, had been convicted after trial for committing a negligent act endangering human life. Their offences caused the death of 22-year-old Corporal Kok Yuen Chin.
Kok had been egged on and then pushed by servicemen into a pump well at Tuas View Fire Station on 13 May 2018. Kok, who could not swim, drowned in the well and five servicemen, including Nazhan and Chong, were charged over his death.
Chong and Nazhan were originally handed one charge each of helping the Rota 3 officers to cause grievous hurt to Kok through a rash act by failing to prevent the men from making Kok enter the well. Their charges were later reduced to committing a negligent act upon conviction.
Both were then jailed 10 weeks, with Nazhan appealing against his conviction and sentence. Chong did not appeal and has since served his jail stint. The prosecution also appealed against the lower court's decision.
Upon appeal, Justice See Kee Oon restored the two accused persons' charges, stating that both Nazhan and Chong had full knowledge of the servicemen's intent and expected outcome, but had done nothing to enforce the ban against ragging.
In sentencing both, Justice See said, "I have no doubt that both are good men but when good men in their position as commanders do nothing resulting in (an NSF) dying after (being engaged) in a prank that went horribly wrong, this is a real tragedy which but could have easily been avoided but for their inaction.
"It is extremely disquieting that there are commanders who condone ragging as horseplay as boys will be boys and will have high-spirited moments of jocularity.
"The sentences I impose will be substantial to drive home the message that (there is) no place for ragging in NS and any other institutional context for that matter. Prohibitions against ragging must be enforced and NS commanders must take responsibility to stamp out ragging seriously."
The prosecution had sought 12 weeks' jail each for Chong and Nazhan, stating that both had "ample time" from the point of celebrations to the point of Kok was pushed into the well to stop the act.
Both had breached the authority and trust reposed in them by Kok and the SCDF, as they knew what a dangerous activity Kok had been involved in.
In mitigation, Chong's lawyer, Wee Pan Lee, asked for the same 10 weeks' jail sentence as the trial judge had imposed on Chong in the lower court. Wee then asked Justice See to order that his sentence has been served. In the event that Justice See passed a longer sentence, Wee asked that the first 10 weeks of the sentenced to be ordered to have been served.
Justice See then pointed out that Wee had cited Chong's "unblemished" record in the SCDF, describing this as irrelevant.
Wee said, "My client's service record speaks for itself, once this case is over he will be subject to separate proceedings, at the moment he is only on suspension."
Nazhan's lawyer Singa Retnam asked the court to consider that Nazhan was not even present when Kok was pushed in the well, that there was no consensus amongst the servicemen to push Kok into the well, and that Nazhan himself had no intention for the offence to be committed.
"He could not stop the activity because he didn't know what was going on. This is where your honour you have to consider ...on all the facts of the case."
Singa sought a $6,000 fine for Nazhan.
Committing a rash act causing grievous hurt carries a jail term of up to two years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
About the case
Kok was celebrating his impending operationally ready date on 13 May 2018 and was carried to Tuas View Fire Station's pump well, which was filled with water to a depth of 11 metres. He was egged on to remove his personal belongings and sat at the edge of the well. Eventually, First Warrant Officer Mohamed Farid Mohd Saleh told Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood 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.
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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