He gave a ‘scared smile’, resisted taken to well for ‘kolam’ ritual: Witness

Kolam

Corporal (CPL) Kok Yuen Chin, drowned on 13 May 2018 at Tuas View Fire Station while serving his national service. He had given a ‘scared smile’ and was resisting as he was being lifted to be carried to the well, said fellow full-time national serviceman (NSF) Mohamed Rabik Atham Ansari who testified in court on 12 Jun.

During a celebration of his impending Operationally Ready Date (ORD), CPL Kok was pushed into the 12m-deep pump well by Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood, which resulted in the Kok’s tragic demise.

Fatwa was sentenced to a year and four weeks in jail in Oct 2018 and is now on home detention.

Mr Ansari was taking the stand for the prosecution in an ongoing trial against two of the station’s commanders, Lieutenant Kenneth Chong Chee Boon and First Senior Warrant Officer (1st SWO) Nazhan Mohamed Nazi.

He recounted that Chong, Nazhan, Fatwa and First Warrant Officer Mohamed Farid Mohd Saleh were among the men in the control room on the night of the incident. Mr Ansari also said that CPL Kok had tried to leave, but to no avail, as two men grabbed him. He also said that he was one of the four men who carried CPL Kok, who was resisting, to the well.

A video of the men carrying CPL Kok from the control room to the pump well was shown to the court as well.

At the well, Fatwa gave CPL Kok a push from the back, and he fell into the water and did not resurface, recalled Mr Ansari.

Defence lawyer Wee Pan Lee, who is representing rota commander Chong, refuted Mr Ansari’s claim and asked how he knew for sure that CPL Kok had been scared and was resisting.

Chong faces the same charge as his deputy Nazhan for causing grievous hurt to CPL Kok by a rash act, by not stopping the men from putting him in the well.

On 13 Jun, the commander of the Tuas View Fire Station, Major (MAJ) Huang Weikang took the stand in the trial against his subordinates.

He told the court that he had never seen a kolam incident before, even though he knew what it entailed. “Someone eventually will end up in the pump well”, he elaborated.

MAJ Huang, who was not at the fire station on the fateful day, had never been a victim of ragging nor been part of a kolam ritual himself.

He remembered the night when Chong called him and relayed the incident to him. MAJ Huang was puzzled as the well was usually filled almost to the brim, with a barricade around it to prevent people from falling in.

He ordered Chong to continue with the rescue operation as he reports the incident to his superior.

The whole place was a mess when he reached the scene, MAJ Huang told the court. There was “a lot of equipment all over the place”, with officers standing around and paramedics attending to CPL Kok. CPL Kok was taken to hospital where he died due to drowning.

Maj Huang also told the court that if he had been in the control room when the term “kolam” was mentioned, he would have been “more alert to why a celebratory moment was there the mention of that word and what It might suggest.”

When asked why MAJ Huang replied that these kolam activities are stories that can’t be proved, but it is known to the men. He would naturally be concerned that they might do it to CPL Kok in a celebratory moment.

He also added that he would have ordered the men to stop if he had seen them carrying CPL Kok towards the pump well as it was a dangerous act of ragging.

MAJ Huang highlighted that ragging “runs counter to SCDF’s philosophy of caring for its personnel” and that the NSFs who join the force are warned about it. There were even anti-ragging posters around places in the fire station where a potential case of ragging could happen.

Differentiating himself from Nazhan, MAJ Huang said that he would not have left the scene when the men were gathered around the pump well, instead would have questioned them “What do you think you are doing here?”

He told the court that Chong was a “responsible rota commander”, hardworking and always completing tasks assigned to him, while Nazhan was “quite involved in the rota” as he would be present with his officers.

He also vouched for CPL Kok. “CPL Kok is a very good boy. You tell him things; he is very obliging, he will listen to you. He will follow instructions.”

The trial is slated to run until 21 Jun.


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