Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen told Parliament on Monday (9 January) that the detention of the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV) in Hong Kong does not comply with international or Hong Kong law and that the country looks forward to them to be returned.
The Minister stated that the legal position is that the SAF Terrex and other equipment detained in Hong Kong are the property of the Singapore Government. Therefore, they are protected by sovereign immunity, even though they were being shipped by commercial carriers. This means that they are immune from any measures of constraint abroad. They cannot legally be detained or confiscated by other countries.
"This means that they are immune from any measures of constraint abroad. They cannot legally be detained or confiscated by other countries," he noted.
He also stated that this principle is well-established under international law and that the Government was advised by lawyers that it is also the law in the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region).
The Minister also said that the Singapore Government has asserted its sovereign rights over the SAF's Terrex, saying that the country has informed Hong Kong a couple of times over the last two months that the vehicles belong to the Singapore Government. Therefore, they are immune from any measures of constraint.
Dr Ng also said that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has also written a letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying on the matter to reiterate Singapore’s sovereign rights over the Terrexes and to request the immediate return of the vehicles.
He said that the Hong Kong authorities have responded that the investigation is ongoing and will take some time to complete, noting that the Hong Kong government will handle the matter in accordance with their laws.
Dr Ng then stated that Singapore welcomes the response and said, "Adherence to the rule of law has been the fundamental basis for peace and stability for the last half century in Asia. It has enabled countries both large and small to build trust and confidence in one another, cooperate and prosper together."
The shipment of the vehicles and their associated equipment were seized on 23 November by the Hong Kong customs belong to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) after an inspection carried out due to a tip-off. It was reported that the shipping company was unable to produce the necessary documents for the military equipment as required by regulations.
The vehicles were used for SAF's overseas training in Taiwan.
The shipping company, APL, had three meetings earlier with Hong Kong Government. However, no formal reason provided yet as of why the vehicles were being detained.