Terrex seizure: SAF has changed practices to better protect assets, says Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen

The Terrex vehicles detained by Hong Kong customs on Nov 23, 2016. PHOTO: FACTWIRE NEWS AGENCY

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will learn from last month's seizure of nine armoured vehicles by the Hong Kong authorities and has changed its practices to better protect Singapore's military assets, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Friday (Dec30).

Dr Ng added that over the past two months, all levels of government had been working hard to get the Terrexes returned to Singapore, "quietly and out of the limelight where it is more effective".

He wrote in a Facebook posting that more details would be provided during the next Parliament sitting, which is scheduled for next month.

On Nov 23, Hong Kong customs detained nine Terrex vehicles that were on board a container ship, which was in transit in Hong Kong. They were being shipped to Singapore following an SAF military exercise in Taiwan.

According to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong customs impounded the shipment because vessel owner APL failed to provide appropriate permits for the vehicles.

Dr Ng said of the incident: "For most Singaporeans, Mindef and the SAF included, the detention of our Terrexes by Hong Kong authorities was a low point in 2016 from the defence perspective."

While the Terrex incident has been upsetting to many, Dr Ng called for the issue to be viewed in its proper context.

"The Terrex issue does not pose an existential threat or even a potential threat as say, terrorism does today. And the SAF must not lose focus or allow that one issue to dominate all else," said Dr Ng.

He added: "We are a sovereign and independent country, and we will chart our own future."

Summing up his thoughts on 2016, Dr Ng said there were significant achievements that have strengthened Singapore's security.

He said relations with countries like the US, China and India are "fundamentally strong and healthy".

"We may not see eye to eye on every issue, but that is the norm of bilateral relations between any two independent and sovereign nations," he explained.

Dr Ng said defence ties with other countries are growing through the FPDA (Five Power Defence Arrangements) and ADMM (Asean Defence Ministers Meeting)-Plus.

Singapore also signed a landmark agreement with Australia to provide more space and time for the SAF to train.

"We enter 2017 with uncertainties about the global economy, international politics and regional security, and the ongoing threat of terrorism," he said.

Dr Ng added: "But if we stay vigilant, united and support each other, we will draw strength and overcome all challenges that come our way."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.