Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told reporters on the sidelines of a defence exercise on Wednesday (25 January) that he hopes for the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) which was held in Hong Kong for two months to be returned to the country in time to celebrate reunion for Chap Goh Meh, which falls on 11 February this year.
Chap Goh Mei in the Hokkien dialect refers to the 15th day of Chinese New Year and also the last day of the celebration of the new year.
However, no official dates have been announced for the vehicles release or voyage back to Singapore.
The Minister said that the shipping firm APL has assured to expedite the return of the Terrex infantry carrier vehicles once they are released by the Hong Kong authorities and that the shipment will take a direct route to Singapore from Hong Kong.
“APL has told us that they will make special efforts to expedite the process despite this being a Chinese New Year weekend,” he said, adding that the Government will keep Singaporeans updated about the progress and the journey of the SAF Terrexes.
“Even after the decision to release the Terrexes to the APL, there are procedures to follow in accordance with Hong Kong port rules. We leave it to the Hong Kong customs to conclude and comment on the results. It must follow due process and according to laws of Hong Kong,” the Minister stated.
In a statement by MFA yesterday (24 January), it is said that Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Leung Chun-ying has replied to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s earlier letter, stating that the Hong Kong authorities have completed their investigations.
Therefore, it will be releasing the ICVs and other equipment to the Singapore Government through the carrier.
However, its Customs officials suggested it might pursue criminal prosecution following investigations into a possible breach of its shipping rules.
Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) and associated equipment has been seized by the Hong Kong customs which it had used for its overseas training in Taiwan.
They were seized at Hong Kong’s Kwai Chung Container Terminal on Wednesday (23 November) after a routine inspection by the authorities.
Dr Ng said that the Government had said from the outset of this episode that it has encouraged APL to comply with all rules and regulations required by the Hong Kong port, that continues to be Singapore’s position, when asked about details of Hong Kong’s investigation.
He also noted that the decision to return the Terrex ICVs is “a positive outcome” and that it “reflects good and friendly relations between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China and Singapore.