Chee writes to Murali as SCDF serves notice on Town Council for fire-safety violations over Bukit Batok fire

8 November 2019
Singapore Democrats

Dr Chee Soon Juan has written to the PAP MP for Bukit Batok, Mr Murali Pillai, following the findings of the SCDF that fire safety measures were violated at Blk 210A. The SCDF has issued Fire Hazard Abatement Notices (FHANs) to the Jurong Clementi Town Council (JCTC) following investigations after a fire broke out at the block last Friday. The letter is copied to Dr Ang Wei Neng also a PAP MP and Chairman of JCTC.

A FHAN is a warning issued for a violation of fire safety measures. (See letter from the SCDF to Dr Chee at the end.)

There is another twist to the case. A William da Silva who claims to be the legal counsel for JCTC's fire equipment contractor, wrote to Dr Chee on FB to say that the hose reel at the block was inspected on the morning after the fire and was found to be working properly. Dr Chee has sent Mr da Silva's FB message to the SCDF and JCTC.    
 

Letter to Mr Murali from Dr Chee 

8 November 2019

Murali Pillai
Member of Parliament
Bukit Batok

Dear Sir,

I am sure that you are aware that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has issued Fire Hazard Abatement Notices to the Jurong-Clementi Town Council (JCTC) for non-compliance of fire safety practices over the incident of the fire at Blk 210A at Bukit Batok.

I have been told during my visits to the block that there were problems with the fire hose reel that rendered the equipment useless. Also, the cabinet box that contained the reel was padlocked.

Residents reported that these problems made it impossible for them to put out the fire that broke out on 1 November. As a result, precious time was lost allowing the fire to build up which forced two of the occupants to climb over the kitchen parapet out of desperation. They were perched on the ledge 13 storeys high before fire personnel finally rescued them. If they had been overcome by the smoke they would have fallen to their deaths.

Another occupant locked herself in the toilet, a situation no less dangerous. As it is, they suffered burns and smoke inhalation and were hospitalised. There have been no reports as to their conditions.

Given the situation, I am sure you will agree that the violations of the fire safety codes in the block were extremely serious. As the MP, it behooves you to tell the residents exactly what happened.

I raise this because since the morning of the fire, you have not reported anything about the matter. A check on your FB at the time of my writing this letter revealed that your only post regarding the incident was on 1 November where you congratulated the SCDF personnel.

As their elected official, I am sure you will agree that you owe the residents an explanation and have the responsibility to clear up the matter with them.

Specifically, the following questions need to be answered:

  1. When did you first come to know that there were problems with the fire safety equipment at Blk 210A?
  2. Why did you not make public the safety breaches noted by the SCDF and the residents, the nature of these breaches, and, most importantly, the steps taken to rectify them?
  3. Why did you not report that the SCDF had issued Fire Hazard Abatement Notices for these violations?

There is another disturbing matter that I must raise. I had received a FB message from a Willam da Silva who claims to be the legal counsel for JKeart Pte Ltd, the contractor responsible for maintenance of the hose reel at Blk 210A.

Mr da Silva wrote that JKeart's team had, in the presence of a JCTC officer, inspected and tested the hose reels on the 12th, 13th and 14th storeys of the block on the morning of 1 November after the blaze was put out and found them to have functioned properly.

He added that the JCTC officer signed off on JKeart's team job sheet "confirming that the hose reel pump system was in normal working condition" and attached a copy of the said job sheet.

He went on to say that the "person or persons trying to extinguish the fire may overlooked (sic) the Instructions on the cabinet door on how to properly use the HR. The person or persons overlooked to turn on the water and turn on the tap faucet (Inlet Valve)."

Mr da Silva's message raises troubling questions in light of the SCDF's actions against JCTC:

  1. Can you confirm if Mr da Silva is indeed JKeart's legal counsel? (I have since replied to his message repeatedly but have yet to receive a response.)
  2. If he is, can you confirm the veracity of his claims, specifically that (a) JCTC and JKeart personnel had inspected the hose reel on 1 November and (b) found that it was functioning properly?
  3. Were you aware of the conclusion of these officials who performed the inspection and signed off on the job sheet?
  4. If you were, what did you do, given that the residents had indicated that the hose reel was not working properly, a claim that seems to have been corroborated by the SCDF? If you were not, why not, given that you are the MP and therefore responsible for such matters?

As you can well imagine, this matter carries serious implications and deserves scrutiny and clarification. It is important that you get to the bottom of it and give an account to Bukit Batok residents who deserve full and complete transparency from their MP. After all, this incident and the subsequent developments concern their physical safety and had even involved a life-and-death situation.

I am making my letter available to the public. I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party


cc. Dr Ang Wei Neng
      PAP MP and
      Chairman, JCTC


Letter from the SCDF to Dr Chee

8 November 2019

Dear Dr Chee,

We refer to your call to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) on 3 November 2019.

2.            SCDF had inspected the premises on 1 November 2019 immediately after the fire, and issued Fire Hazard Abatement Notices to the Jurong-Clementi Town Council. The Town Council has since rectified the non-compliances that were found. 

3.           Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Wee Chai Meng
SSO Service Excellence
Service Excellence Department
Singapore Civil Defence Force