SINGAPORE: Corporal (CPL) Kok Yuen Chin, the full-time national serviceman (NSF) who drowned on May 13 last year at Tuas View Fire Station, had given a "scared smile" and resisted as he was being lifted to be carried to the well, a fellow NSF said in court on Wednesday (Jun 12).
CPL Kok died after he was pushed into the 12m-deep pump well by Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood during a celebration of the NSF's impending Operationally Ready Date (ORD).
Mohamed Rabik Atham Ansari, 23, 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.
Fatwa was sentenced to a year and four weeks in jail last October and is now on home detention, appearing in court as a prosecution's witness on Tuesday.
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Mr Ansari told the court that he was close to CPL Kok as they were the only NSFs at the station, along with Corporal Sok Leng.
He told the court that the men had been in the control room on the night of the incident, after CPL Kok was presented with a plaque. Among them were Chong, Nazhan, Fatwa and First Warrant Officer Mohamed Farid Mohd Saleh.
Mr Ansari said he saw CPL Kok's expression when - after the group ate a cake he had been presented with - some of the men started shouting "kolam, kolam", referring to the ritual of entering the well.
"He was smiling, but (it was) a scared smile," said Mr Ansari, adding that he knew CPL Kok had two kinds of smiles - a genuine one and another that indicated he was afraid. Mr Ansari said he knew the difference.
Mr Ansari said CPL Kok tried to leave quickly, but two men grabbed him. Mr Ansari said he also grabbed one of CPL Kok's legs. Altogether four men carried the victim, who was resisting, to the well, said the witness.
At the well, CPL Kok "kept refusing to go in", said Mr Ansari.
"I thought of two possibilities," he said. "I thought since everybody was urging him to go in, he would just go in and come out. Second, I thought since he kept refusing, everyone would say, 'Since you keep refusing, never mind, we will just go up and have our dinner.'"
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However, Fatwa came from behind and gave CPL Kok a push. The victim fell into the water and did not resurface.
After multiple rescue attempts by several of the men there, CPL Kok was finally extracted in an unconscious state 36 minutes after falling in.
When the court was shown the video of the men carrying CPL Kok from the control room to the pump well, CPL Kok's father, who was attending the trial for the first time and was accompanied by his niece, appeared saddened.
He told media he had taken a day's leave from work to be in court. He had previously told reporters he wanted to watch the videos of what happened that day.
CPL KOK HAD REFUSED TO RETRIEVE BALL FROM WELL
Earlier in the day on May 13, some of the men were playing a game when a football fell into the well. Mr Ansari said that CPL Kok would usually retrieve the ball if it fell into the well, sitting on the edge and using his legs to grip it, but on that occasion, he did not want to.
When Staff Sergeant Muhammad Riduan Mohamed Sairi asked him to take the ball, Chong, who was the rota commander, stepped in and said "don't".
Mr Ansari then fished the ball out.
The 23-year-old also told the court about a discussion he had had with CPL Sok Leng - a swimming instructor - who was supposed to have been on standby to rescue CPL Kok in case anything went wrong in the well.
CPL Sok Leng purportedly asked Mr Ansari why he did not go for his swimming lessons. When Mr Ansari said he had no time, CPL Sok Leng said "if no time can learn swimming at the kolam".
"He also mentioned 'you can ask Sergeant Firdaus what happened the last time'. When I asked Firdaus what happened, he said he was pushed in when he went to take the ball," said Mr Ansari. "So when Riduan asked (CPL Kok) to take the ball, I knew that they might push him."
CPL KOK NOT SCARED BUT STRESSED OUT: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer Wee Pan Lee then cross-examined Mr Ansari and asked how he knew for sure that CPL Kok had been scared and was resisting.
Mr Wee represents rota commander Chong, who 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.
Mr Ansari acknowledged that he had never seen CPL Kok scared or frightened before.
"I would suggest to you that that expression when you saw him under pressure was not scared or frightened but stressed (out)," said the defence lawyer. "So a stressed (out) person need not be frightened."
Mr Ansari agreed, but said CPL Kok seemed frightened while seated at the pump well, due to his body language. "When everybody was pressuring him, he was still smiling, but the way he was sitting down there (with) his legs dangling ... He kept turning back from the kolam to face the person behind and saying he didn't want to go in."
Still, Mr Ansari agreed with the defence lawyer's suggestion that CPL Kok could have been reluctant, but "not necessarily frightened".
The trial continues on Thursday.
If found guilty of causing grievous hurt by a rash act, the commanders face a maximum of four years' jail, a S$10,000 fine or both.
Staff Sergeant Adighazali Suhaimi, who deleted an incriminating video of CPL Kok being pushed into the well, was sentenced to a month's jail and has been released. He will also appear as a witness for the prosecution on Thursday afternoon.
The last man to be dealt with is Farid, who allegedly told Fatwa to push CPL Kok into the well.