SCDF ragging death: Two officers face less serious charges following trial

Kenneth Chong Chee Boon (left) and Nazhan Mohamed Nazi were each charged with one count of performing a negligent act by failing to prevent their subordinates from carrying out the ragging activity.
Kenneth Chong Chee Boon (left) and Nazhan Mohamed Nazi were each charged with one count of performing a negligent act by failing to prevent their subordinates from carrying out the ragging activity.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Two Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers who had claimed trial over a ragging incident that claimed the life of a full-time national serviceman (NSF) two years ago are now facing less serious charges.

On Friday (July 17), Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, 39, and Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 42, were each charged with one count of performing a negligent act by failing to prevent their subordinates from carrying out the ragging activity on May 13, 2018.

Those convicted of this offence can be jailed for up to three months and fined up to $1,500.

The two men were originally charged with intentionally aiding a group of SCDF servicemen to cause grievous hurt to Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, 22, via a rash act endangering human life.

Those convicted of this offence can be jailed for up to four years and fined up to $10,000.

The pair are accused of failing to prevent the group from pressuring Cpl Kok to enter a 12m-deep pump well at Tuas View Fire Station - a banned activity, known as "kolam" - to mark the impending completion of his national service.

Chong was commander and Nazhan, deputy commander, of the station at the time.

The pair will be the last two to be dealt with in court after the tragedy.

Three SCDF regulars had earlier been convicted and sentenced over their involvement in the tragedy. One of them - Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood, 34 - was sentenced to a year and four week's jail in October 2018 after he admitted to the fatal push.

In delivering his reasons for amending the charge Chong and Nazhan were facing, Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun noted on Friday that it was Nur Fatwa who pushed Cpl Kok into the well that evening.

He said that Chong and Nazhan were not present at the well, adding that the pair did not have the opportunity to intervene or take preventive action at the time.

 
 

The judge, however, stressed that there had been a "dereliction of duty" on the part of both men, and said Chong and Nazhan were obliged to ensure Cpl Kok's life was not endangered while he was on duty.

Nazhan did not plead guilty to the amended charge on Friday. Chong, however, admitted to it.

In earlier submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan, Kelly Ho and Sheryl Yeo said Chong and Nazhan had breached their legal obligation by omitting to interfere even as they knew that the group of SCDF servicemen were pressuring Cpl Kok to participate in the kolam ritual.

They said that Chong turned back to his duties in the station's watch room while Nazhan left the pump well area - where the rest of the servicemen and Cpl Kok were - to return to the station's office.

"These were calculated acts - by turning away from the scene, they signalled to the servicemen their intention for the rash act to be committed, or at the very least, their indifference to whether the rash act would be committed," the prosecutors said.

But defence lawyers for Chong and Nazhan argued in their respective submissions that the prosecution had not proven its case "beyond reasonable doubt".

 
 

Mr Wee Pan Lee and Ms Low Chang Yong - who represent Chong - said their client had trusted the servicemen to protect one other.

Chong also believed Cpl Kok would have entered the pump well only voluntarily and on his own, which would have a "very low" risk of harm, they said.

It was therefore not a "foreseeable or probable consequence" to Chong that Nur Fatwa would have pushed the NSF into the well, the lawyers added.

Nazhan's defence lawyers, Mr Singa Retnam and Ms Josephine Lezu Costan, said their client had left the pump well area before Cpl Kok was pushed and could not have "intentionally aided the commission of the rash act".

Chong and Nazhan have been offered bail of $15,000 each and will be back in court on Aug 18.