SCDF NSF death: Witness can't recall details after earlier testimony of ragging attempt

First Warrant Officer Mulifatullah Atan said he recalled someone mentioning the word kolam during Corporal Kok's cake-cutting ceremony, which he understood to mean that Cpl Kok would be taken to the pump well. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A Singapore Civil Defence Force officer testified that hours before Corporal Kok Yuen Chin was pushed into a fire station pump well on May 13 last year, another colleague had tried to ''kolam'' him earlier that day. However, when pressed on the details, he said he could have remembered wrongly.

Taking the stand during the ongoing trial where two SCDF officers linked with Cpl Kok's death are contesting charges, First Warrant Officer (WO1) Mulifatullah Atan told the court that one of the men on trial, rota commander Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, had stepped in to stop it.

But among the various points he made on the stand, WO1 Mulifatullah was unable to back some up or said he had remembered the details wrongly when grilled during cross-examination.

On the night of May 13 last year, Cpl Kok, 22, drowned after he was pushed into the Tuas View Fire Station pump well, or kolam, in a ragging ritual that was part of activities to mark the completion of his national service.

WO1 Mulifatullah said that, about four hours before the incident, some officers had been playing soccer in the yard and Staff Sergeant Al-Khudaifi Chang had held onto Cpl Kok and said the word kolam in a bid to get the full-time national serviceman to enter the nearby pump well.

He said he thought that Staff Sgt Chang would have made Cpl Kok enter the well based on his actions and mention of kolam.

Chong's defence lawyer, Mr Wee Pan Lee, pressed him on this point and brought up differing testimony given by Staff Sgt Chang earlier on Monday.

On Monday, Staff Sgt Chang told the court that he got into a "friendly tussle" with Cpl Kok during the soccer game, but did not mention having said the word kolam then.

Said Mr Wee: "I'm asking you, do you accept Al-Khudaifi's testimony or are you sticking to your own?"

This prompted WO1 Mulifatullah to say: "I heard someone mention kolam... but I don't remember if he's the one."

The ongoing trial involves Chong, 38, a lieutenant, and Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 40, a first senior warrant officer who was deputy rota commander. The two were in charge of the station that night.

They were each charged with aiding a rash act that caused grievous hurt by illegal omission. The two had allegedly failed to prevent a group of officers from making Cpl Kok enter the pump well, thereby endangering his life.

On the evening before the fatal incident, the servicemen on duty had gathered in the fire station's control room to hold a cake-cutting ceremony for Cpl Kok.

Giving his account of that night, WO1 Mulifatullah said he left the room after the celebration and was having a discussion with Nazhan outside. When he returned, he saw Chong and another officer, Sergeant Mohamed Hanis Mohamed Hussain, there.

On Wednesday, however, Sgt Hanis testified that he had left the control room during the ceremony and when he returned, only Chong was there, with no mention of WO1 Mulifatullah.

When asked by Mr Wee on whose version the court should accept, WO1 Mulifatullah said he could not remember if Sgt Hanis had been there.

Said Mr Wee: "You have asserted something you could have been mistaken about. Having said that he was there, and now saying he was not there, this raises questions about which part of your evidence is like that too."

That night, WO1 Mulifatullah was among the officers who had gathered around the pump well after some of them had carried Cpl Kok across the yard to the well.

Defence lawyers for Chong and Nazhan tried to poke holes in WO1 Mulifatullah's statement that he had seen an "unwilling" smile flash across Cpl Kok's face moments before he was pushed into the pump well.

Nazhan's lawyer, Mr Singa Retnam, asked: "He had taken his shirt off, sat down by himself, all without anyone physically forcing him to, how do you know he was unwilling?"

"It was more of my opinion when I saw him in that moment," said WO1 Mulifatullah.

The trial continues on Friday (June 21).

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