Ex-Master Sergeant admitted to rash act which led to death of NSF

SINGAPORE - A former Master Sergeant admitted on Wednesday to ordering a full-time national serviceman (NSF) to drive a jeep, even though he had no valid licence.

The NSF, while driving in the Marsiling training area, lost control of the jeep, causing the death of another NSF who was his passenger on May 11, 2012. Two other soldiers who were also passengers were injured. The four men were taking part in a training exercise.

Ex-MSG Lee Kong Kean, 33, the officer conducting the exercise, later told the instructors his intention to lie to investigators that the NSF, Cavin Tan, now 22, had stolen the jeep he was driving.

Lee pleaded guilty to two charges of a rash act endangering human life, and attemping to pervert the course of justice. He is expected to be sentenced on April 22.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tang Shangjun said that Lee has a Class 3 military driving licence and he was fully aware of the requirements needed to obtain the licence. The full duration of the Class 3 military driving course is 29 days, and military jeep familiarisation is part of it.

But he went ahead to assign Mr Tan, now 22, as a jeep driver, even though he knew that he did not have a valid licence, and had not been trained to drive a jeep.

"This was an act that could endanger the lives of everyone who was on the jeep driven by Cavin," said DPP Tang.

Tan lost control of his jeep on a downward slope. The jeep tilted, rotated around and overturned several times before landing on its side.

Two of NSFs who were on the jeep driven by Tan - Dickson Hong and Ow Yong Wei Long - had not been wearing seat belts or helmets. They were thrown out and injured.

NSF Tan Mou Sheng, who was also not wearing a seat belt and helmet, was pinned under the jeep. He died from severe pelvic injuries.

Later that day, Lee told the instructors his intention to lie that Tan had stolen the jeep.

"This was a claim which MSG Lee knew to be completely untrue, but he nevertheless attempted to make this claim in the hope that he would gain the support of the instructors," said DPP Tang.

"However, none of the instructors agreed with (his) suggestion."

Last December, Tan was sentenced to a 10-day short detention order - a community-based sentence which is less disruptive and stigmatising than a jail sentence.

District Judge Low Wee Ping said during sentencing: "Perhaps one positive outcome of this case is that national servicemen now know that they do not need to obey a manifestly illegal or unlawful order."

For the rash act, Lee faces up to a jail term of six months and a fine of $2,500. For attempting to pervert the course justice, he faces 3 1/2 years in jail and a fine.