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Station commander in SCDF ragging death says he would have stopped the ‘kolam’ ritual

Major Huang who was off on the day of the incident said that his subordinates would have immediately ceased, "because it's an order"

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Singapore— Major (MAJ) Huang Weikang, the commander of the Tuas View Fire Station where an met his untimely death in a ragging incident on May 13, 2018, said in court on June 13, Thursday, he would have stopped the ‘kolam’ ritual, in which individuals are put into the fire station well, had he been present on the night of the incident, recognising how dangerous the ritual is.

Furthermore, Major Huang said that his subordinates would have immediately ceased, “because it’s an order”.

Currently on trial for the death of 22-year-old full-time national serviceman () Kok Yuen Chin are rota commander Lieutenant Kenneth Chong Chee Boon and deputy commander First Senior Warrant Officer Nazhan Mohamed Nazi. Two men have already stood trial and have received their sentences, and the final individual who was charged is expected to stand trial next month.

During the celebration of CPL Kok’s coming Operationally Ready Date (ORD), he was pushed into the well at the fire station and never resurfaced. Thirty-six minutes later he was rescued from the 12-meter well but was already unconscious. While he was immediately brought to the hospital, where it was determined that CPL Kok had succumbed to death by drowning.

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Major Huang, who was a witness for the prosecution, said that he had never been witness to a ‘kolam’ ritual, though he was aware that it meant someone “would end up in the pump well.”

The major told the court that he had never been subject to ragging, nor participated in a ’kolam’ ritual. He was assigned as the fire station commander at Tuas View Fire Station from August 2016 to December 2018 and is currently a senior fire investigator at the Singapore Civil Defence Force ().

The day of the incident happened to be a Sunday, his day off. He received a call from Mr Chong, the rota commander at around 9:00 pm.

He said, ”I cannot remember his exact words, but he told me something along the lines of CPL Kok falling into the kolam and finding his body.

Initially, I was, of course, puzzled over why CPL Kok was in the pump well. And what did they mean they could not find his body?

The pump well is very narrow, (it has a) circular structure, so I was confused by that statement so I probed further, asked him what happened again and I think Kenneth updated that he was trying to suck out the water to find him.”

He arrived at the station in time to see paramedics attending to CPL Kok, who was brought to the hospital afterward.

Major Huang said that if he had been at the station that night, he would have “definitely (been) more alert as to why in a celebratory moment there was the mention of the word kolam and what it might suggest.”

He continued, ”I mean, these are stories we can’t prove, but it’s at the back of the head that the guys in front of you – in a celebration moment … they might do it … to CPL Kok. They might put him into the kolam.”

This is when he said he would have stopped the men from carrying CPL Kok into the well, “because this is an act of ragging and it’s a dangerous act of ragging”.

And his men would have obeyed him.

Furthermore, he said that ragging “runs counter to SCDF’s philosophy of caring for its personnel.”

Concerning Mr Chong, he said that he was a responsible rota commander who was very hardworking, as was Mr Nazhan.

About CPL Kok, Major Huang had this to say. “CPL Kok is a very good boy. You tell him things, he is very obliging, he will listen to you. He will follow instructions.” / TISG

Read related: Fellow NSF said CPL Kok gave a “scared smile” before being pushed into the well where he met his death

 

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