SINGAPORE: The nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles detained by Hong Kong authorities over what the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) described as licensing issues will be returning to Singapore, after being held for two months.
In a statement on Tuesday (Jan 24), Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said Hong Kong authorities have completed their investigations and will be releasing the military vehicles and other equipment through APL, the commercial shipping firm that was supposed to transport the vehicles back to Singapore in November.
MFA added that on Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung replied to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's earlier letter to inform him of the latest developments.
"This is a positive outcome. Prime Minister Lee has replied to Chief Executive Leung to thank him for Hong Kong’s cooperation in resolving this matter," said MFA.
The nine military vehicles were being shipped from Taiwan back to Singapore via APL after a military training exercise when Hong Kong customs impounded the shipment.
Following the announcement that the vehicles will be released, APL said it is"working with the relevant authorities and various stakeholders to ship the vehicles and associated equipment that were detained in Hong Kong in November 2016, back to Singapore".
Prime Minister Lee had written to Mr Leung to ask for the immediate release of the vehicles, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament earlier this month. In his letter, Mr Lee also reiterated Singapore’s sovereign rights over the Terrexes.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also said in Parliament this month that Singapore had not directly opened dialogue with China over the Terrexes as it expected that the law would take its course. He also called for patience to allow this matter to resolve itself through an appropriate legal or judicial process.
The detention of the vehicles was a low point in 2016, said the Defence Minister in December, but he called on SAF to not lose focus or to allow one issue to dominate all others. He added that SAF will learn from the episode and has already changed its practices to better protect its assets.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Dr Ng said: "SAF Terrexes are coming home to Singapore. Looking forward to this happy reunion with all Singaporeans in the Year of the Rooster."