SCDF ragging trial: Commander trusted that men would not harm NSF Kok Yuen Chin, says defence

SCDF ragging trial: Commander trusted that men would not harm NSF Kok Yuen Chin, says defence

Nazhan and Kenneth Chong
First Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan Mohamed Nazi and Lieutenant Chong Chee Boon Kenneth, two of the five SCDF officers charged in court over the death of NSF Kok Yuen Chin. (Photos: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: The rota commander accused of causing grievous hurt to a full-time national serviceman (NSF) by not stopping his men from putting him in a well had trusted his men not to harm the victim.

This was a claim defence lawyer Wee Pan Lee made on behalf of his client, Lieutenant (LTA) Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, during the trial on Tuesday (Jun 11). 

Chong is contesting the charge along with First Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan Mohamed Nazi more than a year after Corporal (CPL) Kok Yuen Chin drowned in a 12m-deep pump well at Tuas View Fire Station on May 13.

Prosecution witness Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood, who pleaded guilty to pushing CPL Kok into the well, told the court earlier that the incident had occurred after celebrations, including cake-cutting, for the 22-year-old NSF's impending Operationally Ready Date.

In the build-up to "kolam", or the ritual of entering the well which he said was part of celebrations, Fatwa admitted to teasing CPL Kok about kolam in order to "scare" him "for fun".

READ: SCDF officer who pushed NSF Kok Yuen Chin into well describes incident he has guilt, nightmares over

Cross-examining Fatwa, Mr Wee said Chong had worked with the senior regulars at the station for a long time and knew that "you people will not do anything CPL Kok would not want to do".

"LTA Chong trusted that you will take care of him, you will not cause him harm," said Mr Wee.

"As a rota, we work together," said Fatwa.

READ: Death of SCDF NSF Kok Yuen Chin: Timeline of events

"So you accept that LTA Chong knew that you guys would tease him to a certain extent, but not beyond," said the defence lawyer. "The teasing will end if CPL Kok says 'I'm not going to the well'. We all know that CPL Kok didn't go into the well voluntarily, because you pushed him."

"Yes," answered Fatwa.

NEVER ANY INTENTION TO THROW HIM INTO WELL: DEFENCE

Mr Wee said there was "never any intention" to throw CPL Kok physically into the well while the group of officers was gathered in the control room to present the NSF with a cake and plaque.

The cake was paid for by Chong, said the defence lawyer, while the plaque was purchased with funds contributed by the rota.

The mood was a "jovial, happy" one, said Mr Wee. "So in the room, nobody, including Chong, could have perceived that this teasing would end up by throwing CPL Kok into the well."

"My instructions are that the men of the rota 3, the relationship amongst the men, was very good," said Mr Wee.

"And that CPL Kok was one of the best-liked, in fact, amongst the men of rota 3," added Mr Wee. "And that you, the seniors, would have treated him ... like a younger brother. Therefore nobody (in the rota) ... would have harboured any bad intention towards CPL Kok."

Fatwa agreed.

READ: SCDF ragging rituals: From being dunked in pump wells to blanket parties

The lawyer added that it was not bright around the well at the time CPL Kok was carried there, so Chong would not have been able to identify the men, who were clad in black tops and blue bottoms and whose backs were facing him.

"This act of yours was not announced in advance, therefore nobody expected it," said the defence lawyer.

"I think so," answered Fatwa.

Nazhan's lawyer Singa Retnam suggested to Fatwa that his testimony that Nazhan had told CPL Kok to jump nearer to the edge of the well if he could not swim "may not be true", since Fatwa "can't remember most of the things we have asked you".

The trial continues on Wednesday, with the officer who found CPL Kok's body at the bottom of the well expected to take the stand.

Source: CNA/ll(hm)

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