SINGAPORE: A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) staff sergeant was lying when he claimed he had pushed a full-time national serviceman (NSF) into a well because his colleague had asked him to, said the Warrant Officer accused of instigating the fatal act.
First Warrant Officer Mohamed Farid Mohd Saleh, 35, took the stand on Wednesday (Aug 28) to defend himself against the allegations.
He claimed that he did not ask Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood to push Corporal Kok Yuen Chin into a 12m-deep pump well on May 13 last year.
The 22-year-old, who could not swim, drowned after the celebrations for his Operationally Ready Date (ORD) went awry.
According to Fatwa's testimony, men from their rota at Tuas View Fire Station had gathered around the "kolam" or well that night when Farid told him in Malay: "Wa tolak dia."
This means "push him, Wa", referring to Fatwa by his nickname.
However, Farid told the court on Wednesday that he did not say this to Fatwa and had no reason to have CPL Kok pushed into the well.
SCDF ragging trial: Officer who pushed NSF into well feels 'betrayed' by man who denies asking him to do so
When Fatwa accused him of asking him to push the young man into the well, Farid felt anger, confusion and disappointment, he recalled.
In response to questions from his defence lawyer Chhabra Vinit, Farid said he felt disappointed that Fatwa was lying.
"I really don't know when I even talk(ed) to him," said Farid. "He's lying and getting me into trouble for something that I did not do."
Asked why he had looked down and shaken his head in disbelief at Fatwa's words, Farid said: "Because ... Fatwa (was) telling a lie. I just feel this is so untrue, that he's telling a lie in front of everybody, and I never say anything."
ACCUSED LAST AT WELL, STOOD APART FROM MEN
According to Farid's account of the day's events, he was the last to arrive at the well as he had stayed in the watch room discussing the next day's activities with his superior Lieutenant Kenneth Chong, who is also facing charges for a separate trial.
He said the men had not eaten their dinner that night, and that he had eaten one-and-a-half slices of cake from CPL Kok's celebration in the watch room.
Closed-circuit television footage showed Farid standing by a flagpole, apart from the other men at the well.
While he claimed he did not ask Fatwa to push CPL Kok into the well, he said he did utter some words. He asked CPL Kok to sit down when he was at the well, but claimed he was among several who made similar requests.
He claimed he did not expect CPL Kok to "get wet" at all, and thought the "teasing" would merely end and that everyone would proceed to the second floor for dinner.
Farid recalled saying in Malay that it was taking too long and "can we hurry up", but added that he had said this to "no one in particular" but was just making comments out loud.
By this, he meant for everyone to finish what they were doing and disperse for dinner.
Instead, Fatwa pushed CPL Kok into the water and he did not resurface.
"I don't know why he did not resurface," said Farid. "We tried to save him ... I don't know why he fell into the water so fast."
READ: SCDF ragging death: Trial starts for man accused of asking officer to push NSF Kok Yuen Chin into well
"MAYBE HE'S TRYING TO IMPLICATE EVERYBODY"
After the young man was retrieved from the water, investigations and questioning began. Fatwa told Farid "you told me to push him in", but Farid replied "I told him to sit there".
Later on, in front of the other men, Fatwa said in Malay: "Sekarang kau orang nak aku mati seorang atau sama-sama."
"He's trying to say - he admitted to what he has done, and you guys want me to die alone, or we share the consequences together," said Farid, explaining his interpretation of what Fatwa had said.
He said he was not sure why Fatwa said this.
"Maybe he's trying to implicate everybody," he added.
The trial continues.
READ: Fellow SCDF NSF says Kok Yuen Chin gave a 'scared smile', resisted being taken to well for 'kolam' ritual
Fatwa has served his sentence of a year and four weeks for causing CPL Kok's death and abetting the obstruction of justice.
If found guilty of instigating Fatwa to push the NSF into the well, Farid could be jailed for up to five years, fined, or both.