Written by Ashley Koh

What happened?

On May 13, Corporal (CPL) Kok Yuen Chin drowned in a pump well after being pushed in by his squad mates to celebrate his ORD. CPL Kok was to ORD in three days’ time on May 16. At that time, the 12-metre-deep pump well was filled up to 11 metres of water. After being pushed in, CPL Kok failed to resurface after eight seconds, prompting the servicemen involved in the ragging incident to dive into the pump well in an unsuccessful bid to rescue him.

CPL Kok was only taken out of the well 36 minutes later after the water in the pump well was drained and was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital at 10.13pm. He was pronounced dead at 11.02pm.

Are the safety measures really effective?

Since the incident, five SCDF officers have been charged in court on July 25 for various counts of abetting a rash act causing death. Among the five officers were Lieutenant Chong and 1st Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan, commander and deputy commander of the station respectively. They were charged with ‘abetting a rash act causing grievous hurt by illegal omission’.

Despite SCDF’s ‘clear anti-ragging policies and frameworks’ such as issuing ‘deterrent punishments’ like detention and creating a whistleblowing programme to report wrongful practices, the tragedy still took place. As such, the board of inquiry issued a slew of recommendations to Law Minister Mr Shanmugam, which he accepted, to strengthen SCDF’s anti-ragging principles and preventive measures.

However, despite issuing new safety measures, history has shown that these measures have simply been ignored or not taken seriously; this incident took place only two weeks after the death of NSF Corporal First Class Dave Lee in Bedok Camp. The problem lies partly in how the commanders disregard the very safety measures they are required to enforce. The strong culture that antagonizes whistle blowers or ‘killjoys’ among servicemen must also be dealt with before any significant progress can be made towards reducing safety-related incidents.

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