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Singapore Rifle Association sues parent body for losses caused by armoury flooding

SINGAPORE: A flood in the armoury of the National Shooting Centre in 2014 had damaged more than 185,000 rounds of ammunition belonging to the Singapore Rifle Association (SRA).

It also dampened relations between the SRA and its parent body, the Singapore Shooting Association (SSA), culminating in the SRA’s expulsion from the SSA in December last year.

On Tuesday (Feb 14), the High Court heard the first of at least three lawsuits brought by the SRA against the SSA and its president Michael Vaz.

The SRA is suing the national shooting authority over S$ 455,678 in losses it allegedly suffered as a result of two floods in December 2014 and May 2015 “caused by SSA’s negligence”.

The SRA maintains that the cause of the first flood, on Christmas eve, was a blocked drain filled with earth fill material, which caused the water to flow into the basement armoury through its open windows.

It was SSA’s duty, as the party which holds the lease of the premises, to maintain the drainage infrastructure, argued lawyer Wendell Wong who represents SRA. “SRA is an innocent party and has no control over the areas outside of the armoury”, Mr Wong said.

The flood damaged 185,000 rounds of ammunition, which were submerged under water for more than 24 hours, making them unsafe for use.

SRA’s operations manager Marcus Kung testified that if the gun power inside a bullet is wet, the “explosion” from pulling the trigger “will not result in the bullet being propelled from the barrel completely”. If the shooter failed to realise this before firing the next round, it would result in a “chamber explosion”, he said.

The cause of the second flood, which happened on May 3, 2015, was caused by a blockage of the pipe connecting two sections of the drain which was chocked by debris, claimed SRA.

No damage to the armoury was caused by the second flood, Mr Kung said, because he had used plastic pellets to raise the boxes of ammunition off the floor.

Mr Wong said the S$ 455,678 in losses SRA claims it suffered include the cost of damaged ammunition, cost of disposal of damaged ammunition, losses of SRA’s members and cleaning and replacement of damaged items.

On its part, SSA will argue that SRA was “contributorily negligent”, and had refused to seal the windows to the armoury “in full knowledge that the armoury was located in the basement and prone to the ingress of water in the event of a flood”.

SRA also argued that the “windows issue” was a matter of security.

Mr Wong said the sealing of the windows for security reasons had been raised by the police in 2014. SRA had sought SSA’s approval to seal the windows in 2015, but was “not allowed to”, Mr Wong said, explaining that the SSA had been “under instructions” by Sport Singapore not to carry out any construction works until after the 2015 SEA Games.

Sport Singapore is the national sports governing body. It had last February ordered the closure of the National Shooting Centre run by the SRA due to irregularities in gun licensing which were found during an audit of its armoury. Police seized more than 70 weapons from the armoury.

This sparked another legal tussle between SRA and Mr Vaz. 

The trial involving damages from the flooding continues.

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Philippines rights body to probe Duterte killing boast

MANILA: The Philippines’ independent rights watchdog said on Thursday (Dec 22) it will investigate President Rodrigo Duterte’s boasts he killed criminals years ago, invoking a strong rebuke from the Filipino leader against a United Nations official who called for the murder probe.

Duterte, who is waging an anti-drugs war that has left thousands dead, said last week that he helped police kill three suspected kidnappers early in the first of his several terms as mayor of the southern city of Davao.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Tuesday that Duterte’s killings, by his own admission, “clearly constitute murder” and Philippine judicial authorities must launch an investigation.

Duterte, known for his foul-mouthed outbursts, replied to Zeid’s call in a speech on Thursday with a stream of insults, describing the UN official as “either a joker or slightly unhinged” while stating that UN member-nations’ contributions pay the UN officials’ salaries.

Philippine Commission on Human Rights chief Jose Gascon said earlier on Thursday he had formed a team of investigators to look into alleged past killings by Duterte.

“Law enforcement agencies … must investigate as a matter of course any information that suggests that a crime may have been committed with the view to ensuring that perpetrators are ultimately held accountable should the evidence warrant it,” Gascon said in a statement.

The commission is an independent government body that prosecutes law enforcers or other officials who commit torture, extrajudicial killings or violate Filipinos’ constitutional rights.

NEW REVELATIONS

It had investigated then Davao mayor Duterte over allegations he ran death squads that killed more than a thousand petty criminals there.

Duterte has variously denied or confirmed the allegations. The commission did not file any criminal charges after completing its inquiry.

But Gascon said his agency had “reconstituted a team to further investigate (Davao death squads) to look into the new revelations and public admissions that may shed light on our previous findings.”

“The team will look into any matter that may further shed light on the killings in Davao that was the subject matter of our previous investigation.”

Duterte easily won presidential elections in May largely on a promise to eradicate illegal drugs in society by launching an unprecedented campaign in which tens of thousands of people would be killed.

More than 5,300 people have died since he took office in late June, including 2,124 at the hands of police. The commission has said it is investigating several cases where police were responsible.

Duterte insists police have not violated any law in killing drug suspects.

On Wednesday Duterte’s spokesman said his admission about the killing of three people referred to “legitimate police action” but did not address the fact the then mayor was not a police officer.

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