On top of the two Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) regulars that were arrested in connection to the drowning of Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, four other officers are currently under probe.
A statement made by the Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday noted that the four new personnel linked to the case were supposed to be promoted on June 1, but the promotions will be on hold until investigations have concluded.
As for the two officers that were arrested on Monday — the day after the 22-year-old national serviceman drowned — they have been suspended from service on half-pay. The Warrant Officer 1 and Staff Sergeant were CPL Kok’s Tuas View Fire Station colleagues in the same shift rotation.
Yesterday would have been CPL Kok’s final duty as a firefighter and the last day of the Singapore PR’s term in national service. As part of his farewell celebrations last Sunday, he was involved in a long-held ritual among firefighters, in which the outgoing personnel is dunked into the fire station’s pump well — a 12m-deep reservoir meant for the training and testing of fire engine water pumps. Even though his colleagues knew he could not swim, the activity was still carried out. Kok eventually drowned, and he could only be retrieved from the bottom of the well after all the water had been drained out.
According to MHA, the independent Board of Inquiry convened to look into the case will be chaired by a senior director from the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The State Coroner may call for an inquiry into the death, while the Attorney-General’s Chambers is also reviewing the case in regards to criminal proceedings.
At the end of investigations, the Board of Inquiry will make recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.
But the culture of ragging within the SCDF has proved to be too deep-seated and such activities will continue, as past and current efforts to deter such activities have failed to stamp out the traditions.
A message against ragging
“Unit commanders will be held accountable and responsible for any unauthorized initiation or ragging activities by any personnel under their charge,” said SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap during a briefing with all commanders on Tuesday.
“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.”
Frat-like hazing rituals and ragging are deeply ingrained traditions among SCDF firefighters — activities meant to humiliate the target as a sort of macho fun. The activities are officially banned by SCDF, but it’s an open secret that ragging is still conducted — though the culture of acceptance varies between different units and rotas.
“There must be zero tolerance for any officer who contravenes the rules, and we must take all necessary measures to eradicate such activities,” said Commissioner Yap, who added that the incident has damaged SCDF’s credibility and trust of the public.