SINGAPORE - More needs to be done to ensure Singapore youth are equipped with swimming and open water survival skills, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in light of the death of a 12-year-old schoolboy in waters off East Coast Park on Monday (May 8).
"It's something we need to do more about, not only because of this tragic incident, but because it's a very useful life skill and form of physical endeavour," said DPM Tharman on Tuesday (May 9).
He was speaking after attending the wake of Muhammad Suhaimi Sabastian, whose body was found in the waters off Bedok Jetty on Monday afternoon after a three-hour search operation.
The wake, which was held at Suhaimi's grandparent's home in Ho Ching Road, was attended by more than 70 relatives and friends, including the boy's schoolmates from Jurongville Secondary School and former schoolmates from Lakeside Primary School.
"He was a very well-behaved boy and well-liked because he was very jovial. We all feel the loss of the family," said DPM Tharman, who is the MP for Taman Jurong ward in Jurong GRC.
"We will have to do all we can to help his classmates, including his former primary schoolmates whom he was very close to, as well as his current secondary schoolmates," he added, saying that school counsellors are coordinating to reach out to these students.
When asked about Suhaimi not being able to swim, Mr Tharman said Suhaimi was "probably not the only one".
"Sometimes, when in a group when you're young, you feel safe because you're in a group and you assume nothing will go wrong. If you're on your own, you think twice. But in a group, people just jump in," he said.
Suhaimi was swimming at East Coast Park with a group of Jurongville schoolmates at around noon, after an exam paper on Monday morning.
He was among four students who were struggling in the water about 50m away from the shoreline. Three of them swam back on their own and three others were rescued by housewife Silvia Hajas, who was in the vicinity when the boys started yelling for help.
By the time Ms Hajas had rescued two boys, Suhaimi had disappeared under the water. He did not resurface after that.
Later, at 3.33pm, the body of Suhaimi was retrieved by the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
Police are investigating the unnatural death.