SCDF chief's message to officers

SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap, in a message to officers yesterday, ordered them to ensure their staff are not harmed or demeaned in any way.

Dear colleagues,

We started this week with the heartbreaking loss of Cpl Kok Yuen Chin, our NSF firefighter.

Today on May 16, Cpl Kok would have completed his two-year full-time national service and left the SCDF with a strong testimonial reflecting his good performance and outstanding conduct.

But last Sunday, Cpl Kok drowned in the pump well at Tuas View Fire Station.

The police are conducting investigations into what happened. Two of our SCDF regular officers have been arrested, and preliminary investigations show that Cpl Kok's drowning arose out of a clear violation of SCDF's rules.

As an organisation, and as individuals, I am sure every one of us is grieved and horrified by this unfortunate incident. Each day, we put our lives at risk to protect and save lives and property. We pride ourselves on being the life-saving force.

But among us, there may be some who flout the rules, or turn a blind eye to unauthorised initiation or ragging activities being carried out by officers who clearly do not embrace our core values.

Let me be clear about this - those of us who are aware of or have seen such acts being carried out, but yet do not stop or report these acts, also bear responsibility. We cannot condone or allow any wrongdoing.

I had personally briefed all commanders yesterday and underlined the importance of command responsibility. Unit commanders will be held accountable and responsible for any unauthorised initiation or ragging activities by any personnel under their charge.

Commanders are entrusted with the responsibility to look after the men and women who risk their lives every day. It is our duty to ensure they are not harmed or demeaned by the actions of others. There must be zero tolerance for any officer who contravenes the rules, and we must take all necessary measures to eradicate such activities.

Yesterday, I attended Cpl Kok's wake in Melaka with a few colleagues. With a heavy heart, on behalf of all of us, I expressed our deepest condolences to his family.

I personally assured his father that the SCDF will cooperate fully with the police investigation and the Board of Inquiry, and the outcome will be made known to the family. We will continue to provide all necessary assistance to them during this very difficult time.

This incident has damaged the credibility of the force. We must do our utmost to regain the trust of the public, the families who entrust their sons to us to serve their national service, and our own men and women too.

Even as we mourn the loss of one of our own, we owe it to Cpl Kok to ensure that this must never happen again.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2018, with the headline 'SCDF chief's message to officers'. Print Edition | Subscribe