Jail for SCDF officer who gave NSF fatal push into pump well

He also admits abetting the obstruction of justice by asking for video of incident to be deleted

Mohammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood, a staff sergeant, admitted to pushing Corporal Kok Yuen Chin into the well on May 13, 2018, at Tuas View Fire Station. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

For 12 seconds at 9.06pm on May 13, Corporal Kok Yuen Chin stood at the edge of the fire station pump well, looking worried.

Around him, fellow Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers were egging him on to enter the 12m-deep well filled with water. Cpl Kok hesitated, and someone told him to sit at the well's edge. He complied, but made no attempt to enter.

Another 43 seconds would pass, but the full-time national serviceman (NSF) remained seated, looking scared. A sudden, forceful push came from behind, and Cpl Kok fell into the well. He did not resurface.

Eight seconds later, some SCDF officers jumped into the well in an attempt to save him, but to no avail. It took another 36 minutes before Cpl Kok's body was recovered, after water had to be pumped out.

A harrowing account of the incident on the night of May 13 emerged in court as SCDF regular Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood, 34, yesterday admitted to committing the push that resulted in Cpl Kok's drowning.

Nur Fatwa was sentenced to one year and four weeks in jail for causing death by rash act in the incident at Tuas View Fire Station.

He also admitted to abetting the obstruction of justice when he told another officer to delete a video recording of the incident.

Four other SCDF officers also face charges in relation to the case. They are Mohamed Farid Mohd Saleh, 34; Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, 38; Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 40; and Adighazali Suhaimi, 33.

The night of May 13 had begun in festivity and cheer. A group of at least 13 officers - including Nur Fatwa and those charged - gathered in a room at the fire station to celebrate Cpl Kok's impending operationally ready date on May 16.

A plaque and cake were presented to Cpl Kok during the celebration. Nur Fatwa then suggested that Cpl Kok take part in the ragging ritual that would involve the NSF entering the pump well - this was referred to as "kolam".

Court documents said other officers supported the suggestion and started shouting "kolam, kolam".

Cpl Kok waved his hands to signal that he did not want to participate.

But Nur Fatwa lifted him by the armpits and, along with two others, carried him towards the well. Nur Fatwa did not know Cpl Kok could not swim. As they were carrying him, Cpl Kok kept saying "jangan, encik, jangan", which means "don't, encik, don't". Encik is a term used to refer to SCDF regular specialists.

Court papers showed that the group did this despite anti-ragging posters displayed around the station. Nur Fatwa was also aware that the kolam ritual was prohibited.

The bigger concern among some officers was that no one should be taking photographs or videos of the incident. Court papers showed that two of them had instructed the rest not to do so. But the incident was captured on closed-circuit TV cameras.

Paramedics tried to resuscitate Cpl Kok, who was recovered from the well at 9.43pm. He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead at 11.02pm.

Last month, the SCDF said it would decommission pump wells at fire stations and beef up initiatives to weed out ragging.

Nur Fatwa's lawyer Sunil Sudheesan asked for a jail term of fewer than eight months, saying his client and Cpl Kok were friends, and the latter was well-liked - hence the celebration and ritual. Nur Fatwa himself had been subject to the ritual.

Mr Sunil told the court that Cpl Kok's participation in the kolam ritual had been discussed before, and that it was "everyone's contemplation that it would happen".

The prosecution, however, asked for a sentence of at least 14 months in jail to reflect the seriousness of Nur Fatwa's offences and severe public disapproval of such actions.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan said the accused's actions played a central role in putting a "premature and tragic end to a young man's life". "Unfortunately, (Cpl Kok's) life was extinguished for a pointless prank, executed for the satisfaction of others."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2018, with the headline Jail for SCDF officer who gave NSF fatal push into pump well. Subscribe