SCDF ragging trial: Warrant officer who asked staff sergeant to push NSF into well gets 13 months’ jail
SINGAPORE: The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) warrant officer who asked a colleague to push a full-time national serviceman (NSF) Kok Yuen Chin into a well was sentenced to 13 months’ jail on Wednesday (Nov 20).
First Warrant Officer Mohamed Farid Mohd Saleh, 36, was earlier found guilty for goading Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood to commit a rash act that caused the death of Corporal Kok, 22.
On Oct 31, District Judge Victor Yeo found that Farid had told Fatwa to push CPL Kok into a 12m-deep pump well on the night of May 13, 2018, at Tuas View Fire Station.
CPL Kok, who could not swim, drowned after the celebrations for his Operationally Ready Date (ORD) went awry.
During the sentencing, the prosecution led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan argued that Farid demonstrated a “high degree of rashness” in his conduct.
Fatwa pushed Kok into the well only because Farid instigated it, despite knowing how deep the well is, he said.
And as parents entrust the lives of their children with senior officers in SCDF, the incident showed that Farid had failed in his role as a supervisor in the service, the prosecution added.
In mitigation, Farid’s lawyer Vinit Chhabra gave several reasons for a lighter sentence, including that Farid had no control over the suddenness and manner in which Fatwa shoved Kok into the water, and that such ragging activities were "the norm" in SCDF.
Also, Farid was the main breadwinner in his family of four, with two sons aged two and seven. His wife is an administrative assistant at a dental clinic.
Farid has also worked in the SCDF for 11 years, where he has excelled, said the defence, who submitted to the court three character references. The incident was a departure from his normal conduct and “by no means representative… of the manner he would have conducted himself”.
And unlike Fatwa, he had never instigated anyone or pushed anyone into the well before.
In sentencing, District Judge Victor Yeo said that the sentence had to reflect “deterrence and retribution” and “send a message that such rash and risk-taking behaviour must not be tolerated”.
As a long-time SCDF officer, Farid must have known that the well was deep, dark and dangerous. And while he did not know whether Kok could swim, the latter had protested and hesitated entering the well before being pushed.
Judge Yeo added that given Farid was at the well and witnessed the events as it unfolded - with Kok sitting at the edge of the well - Farid cannot claim that he had no control over the suddenness and manner of push.
Farid had failed as the most senior officer in the vicinity to carry out his duty to stop the activities, Judge Yeo said.
He also reiterated that he was not impressed with Farid downplaying his role in the incident.
Unlike Fatwa, Farid did not enter an early guilty plea.
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 that he did not say this to Fatwa and had no reason to have CPL Kok pushed into the well.
During Farid’s sentencing, Judge Yeo said that he did not come across as a credible witness, and was not “impressed by his attempts to downplay his involvement in the whole episode”.
In total, five SCDF officers have been charged for their involvement in Kok’s death.
Fatwa has served his sentence of a year and four weeks. Staff Sergeant Adighazali Suhaimi was jailed for one month in December 2018 for deleting incriminating evidence.
The trial for Farid's superiors, rota commanders First Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan Mohamed Nazi and Lieutenant Chong Chee Boon Kenneth, are scheduled for next month.
They have been accused of causing grievous hurt to CPL Kok by a rash act, as they did not stop their men from putting him in the well.
For abetting a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide, Farid could have been jailed for up to five years, a fine, or both.