Late NSF's father says new anti-ragging measures by SCDF are too late
Other new measures include installing metal grating over fire station pump wells and boosting whistle-blower framework
Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel found to have taken part in ragging or unauthorised initiation activities will now face stiffer penalties ranging from detention to demotion and even dismissal.
Other measures being introduced to get rid of a ragging culture that led to the death of a full-time national serviceman (NSF) include:
- Metal grating, which can be locked, to be installed across the openings of fire station pump wells to prevent unauthorised access; and
- Closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera coverage to be expanded in SCDF premises to deter and detect unauthorised activities.
Announcing the measures in a statement yesterday, SCDF said the enhanced penalties could mean detention of up to 40 days, demotions in rank, fines and dismissals from the force, depending on whether the offender is an NSF or a regular.
The penalties will be extended to officers found to have been aware of such activities but did nothing to stop or report them.
To enhance command responsibility in the force, all unit commanders have been told that they will be held personally accountable for any ragging and unauthorised initiation activities in their units.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament last week that he had directed the SCDF and other Home Team agencies to relook current rules and come up with enhanced measures after the death of Corporal Kok Yuen Chin.
The Malaysian, who was a permanent resident here, drowned in a pump well in Tuas View Fire Station on May 13 after being forced to take part in ragging activities as part of celebrating his impending operationally ready date.
A Board of Inquiry (BOI) has been convened to look into the incident.
A 24/7 feedback hotline will also be introduced to beef up the existing whistle-blowing framework for raising concerns and feedback about unacceptable practices.
There will also be one-to-one interviews fortnightly between NSFs in their last three months of service and senior SCDF officers who are not based at the same station to improve feedback.
"This ensures impartiality in the feedback process and facilitates in reassuring the NSFs to bring up any issues of concern," SCDF said.
Any reports of unauthorised activities during these interview sessions will be raised to senior management and acted upon.
SCDF's existing initiatives include periodic briefings on anti-ragging awareness, and videos and posters to increase awareness of its zero-tolerance policy against ragging.
SCDF said it will also consider recommendations from the BOI.
When told of the new measures by The New Paper, Cpl Kok's father, Mr Kok Meng Hwa, 56, said they should have been implemented sooner instead of after his son's death.
"Had all this been done sooner, perhaps my son would still be alive today," he said over the phone from his home in Malacca.
"We could have called the hotline since we knew beforehand that he would be going into the pump well.
"Even if that wasn't taken seriously, the pump well would have been covered with the metal grating, so he would not have ended up inside."
Mr Kok added: "I feel that this is too little, too late, so there is very little consolation for me, especially since I have lost my son."