Metal grating will be installed across the openings of fire station pump wells and will be locked to prevent unauthorised access - one of several measures introduced by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) to weed out a ragging culture that led to the death of a full-time national serviceman (NSF).
Other measures revealed yesterday in a statement by the SCDF include the expansion of closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera coverage at its premises to deter and detect unauthorised activities.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam had said in Parliament last week that the SCDF and Home Team agencies would be reviewing and enhancing their measures following the death of Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, an NSF.
The Malaysian national and Singapore permanent resident, 22, died after going through ragging activities that involved him getting into a fire station pump well. He had been celebrating his impending operationally ready date with station mates on May 13, and was later found unconscious in the pump well.
A Board of Inquiry (BOI) has been convened to look into the incident.
Other measures include stiffer penalties for officers if they are found guilty of participating in any ragging or unauthorised initiation activities. Currently, NSFs or operationally ready national servicemen are liable to a detention sentence of up to 40 days, in addition to a demotion in rank.
Enhanced measures to be taken
Improved infrastructure Metal grating will be installed across the opening of fire station pump wells, which will be locked to prevent unauthorised access.
Also, closed-circuit television coverage within SCDF premises will be expanded to deter and detect unauthorised activities.
Penalties for engaging in ragging or unauthorised initiation activities will be extended to SCDF officers who are found to be aware of such activities but did not attempt to stop or report them.
New whistle-blowing hotline
A new 24/7 staff feedback helpline will enhance the existing whistle-blowing framework for officers to raise grievances or to flag misconduct.
More dialogue channels
The SCDF will conduct fortnightly interviews between full-time national servicemen and senior SCDF officers who are not based in the same station, for impartiality. The one-on-one interviews will be held during the last three months of the NSFs' service, where they can bring up issues of concern. Training for new commanders All newly appointed commanders will have to undergo a training programme.
They will learn about the expectations of command, be advised on how to detect and prevent ragging and unauthorised activities, and also how to identify vulnerable individuals.
Tan Tam Mei
SCDF regulars will also be disciplined under the Public Service Commission's disciplinary framework and are liable to be fined, demoted or dismissed from service.
These penalties will be extended to officers who are found to have been aware of such activities but did nothing to stop or report them.
As part of enhancements to command responsibility within the force, SCDF also said all unit commanders have been told they will be held personally accountable for ragging and unauthorised initiation activities that take place in their units.
Division commanders will also hold one-on-one sessions with commanders under them to ensure they are fully aware of their responsibilities. In addition, newly appointed commanders will have to undergo a training programme that will convey the expectations of command and advise them on detecting and preventing such activities.
A 24/7 hotline will also be set up to add to the existing whistle-blowing framework for officers to raise grievances and instances of misconduct within the organisation.
The force will also enhance feedback and monitoring channels by conducting one-to-one interviews fortnightly between NSFs and senior SCDF officers who are not based at the same station.
These will take place in the last three months of the NSF's service. Any case of unauthorised activities reported during these interviews will be raised to SCDF senior management for follow-up action.
Now, similar fortnightly interviews are held between NSFs and their supervisors during their first three months in a new unit. The sessions take place on a quarterly basis thereafter.
Existing initiatives against ragging and unauthorised initiation activities also include periodic briefings on anti-ragging awareness, and videos and posters to increase awareness of SCDF's zero-tolerance policy against ragging, it said in the release. The SCDF added it will also carefully consider any further recommendations from the BOI.