Thursday, July 17, 2008


Mr Freddie Kee, the father of Reuben Kee, who died while competing in last November's dragon boat competition in Cambodia, has made an important point. He, and the parents of the 4 other youth who lost their lives in the same accident, are asking a question that has so far been pushed aside perfunctorily - who was to blame for the accident? The Inquiry panel that was convened to look into the accident basically said that nobody could be blamed, that no one person or organisation can be held accountable for the accident. But now, Mr Kee is forcing the hand that would not play. In the light of the latest 'water accident', where a student from the SMU drowned, this is indeed a pertinent question, one that demands an answer, especially in the light of new information.

It appears that it was an accident that could have been avoided after all. A Singapore Dragon Boat Association's (SDBA) team manager had reportedly warned about the danger of the pontoon platform which eventually claimed the lives of the 5 rowers. But in spite of this, a judgement was made (probably within the SDBA) to discount the warning, to fatal consequences. Clearly, there is a case for the SDBA to answer. Also, it would appear that the Inquiry Panel's conclusions were defective. I do not know if they were in possession of this material fact. If they were, they will be just as culpable in hiding the truth, or at least not given it due weight in their deliberations. But the fact is that the Singapore Dragon Boat Association was in possession of such a fact. Therefore the decision not to put on life vests was an irresponsible decision.

The SDBA might not want to admit culpability by apologising. Will it be facing a civil suite in the days to come? But beyond civil suites and apologies, it now appears that the SDBA is not an organisation that puts safety above all else. This is a widely reported accident. And if the SDBA is not going to do anything to convince the public that it does put safety above all, then its popularity in the coming years will dwindle and the sport may die a natural death. Why? Because Singapore is a very kiasu society and each family doesn't have so many children to 'spare'. Why would any right-thinking parent allow his child to participate in an activity where its organisers have a poor track record on safety? What's worse, if anything bad happens, this organisation would appear to be the first to 'run away' from bearing responsibility.

So for the sake of the sport, and more so, for the sake of safety, the leaders of the SDBA should come clean about itself. Otherwise, it is time either to change the guard or disband the association.

Image source: Author: Dani Simmonds

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