SCDF to install metal grating over fire station pump wells and more CCTVs following NSF death

Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, 22, entered a 12m-deep pump well as part of a stunt to celebrate the impending end of his conscription. PHOTO: SINGAPORE CIVIL DEFENCE FORCE

SINGAPORE - Metal grating will be installed across the openings of fire-station pump wells to prevent unauthorised access, among several new 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 include the expansion of closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera coverage at SCDF premises to deter and detect unauthorised activities.

The SCDF revealed these new measures in a statement on Wednesday (May 23), following a pledge by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam in Parliament last week that SCDF and Home Team agencies would be relooking and enhancing its 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 revealed by the SCDF include stiffer penalties to be meted out to 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.

SCDF regulars will also be disciplined under the Public Service Commission 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 new 24/7 hotline will also be set up to add to the existing whistle-blowing framework for officers to raise grievances and 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.

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 include periodic briefings on anti-ragging awareness, and videos and posters to increase awareness of SCDF's zero-tolerance policy against ragging, said the force in the release.

The SCDF said it will also carefully consider any further recommendations from the BOI.

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