SINGAPORE: Investigations into the death of a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) full-time national serviceman (NSF) are ongoing, and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Thursday (May 17) that there will "almost certainly" be criminal proceedings.
In response to a question in Parliament by MP Christopher de Souza, Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, said there will likely be criminal charges and that the Attorney-General's Chambers told him so after reviewing the facts at this stage.
"Based on the facts that I've seen, I think so too. I am usually quite careful about saying these things, but I think so too; there should be criminal charges," Mr Shanmugam said.
Corporal (CPL) Kok Yuen Chin died on May 13 after being found unconscious at the bottom of a 12m-deep fire station pump well that was filled with water. He had gone into the pump well at Tuas View fire station as part of activities to celebrate his impending ORD with squad mates. Two SCDF regulars - a Staff Sergeant and a First Warrant Officer - were arrested on Monday.
The body of CPL Kok was cremated on Thursday at his hometown in Melaka.
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday also mentioned that criminal proceedings may be launched against those found responsible for CPL Kok's drowning.
Mr Shanmugam said there is a "fair bit of evidence" as to what had happened that night, in terms of witnesses and objective evidence, but it was inappropriate for him to go into the details at this stage.
He added that the Board of Inquiry, with the majority of its members from outside the Government, will look into the facts of the incident. MHA had said the BOI will be chaired by a senior director from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and will include members who are not from MHA or SCDF.
"What I can say is that the conduct was unacceptable; it was a clear and serious violation of the rules," Mr Shanmugam said.
He added: "People play games, they horse around, they make people like CPL Kok do dangerous things, even force them into dangerous situations. And people who do this don't think, they don't think about how it can go wrong.
"When it does go wrong, a life is lost. Needlessly lost."
RULES BEING RELOOKED, TO BE FINALISED "BY NEXT WEEK"
The minister also stressed the need to look into what went wrong and learn the lessons, to see what more can be done to stop this type of behaviour.
"People send their children to NS, they trust us. We have to maintain that trust," he said.
As such, he has directed the SCDF and other Home Team agencies to relook the rules and focus on how these are enforced. They are to come up with a further set of measures "by next week" and, once finalised, he will announce them.
Mr Shanmugam also reiterated that unit commanders will be held responsible if such incidents happen in the future.
This message was conveyed to SCDF officers on Wednesday by Commissioner Eric Yap, who said commanders are entrusted with the responsibility to look after the men and women who risk their lives every day, and it is their duty to make sure they are not harmed or demeaned by others.
"There will be zero tolerance," said Mr Shanmugam in Parliament. "We have to do, and we will do our best, to not let this happen again."