I was startled when I read Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen’s statement in My Paper today. “The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Government will start proceedings to recover the armoured vehicles seized in Hong Kong once the reasons for their detention are made clear”. The report went on to say that Dr Ng said that “… the Terrex has been transported by commercial carriers ever since it was introduced” and that “Singapore has not suffered any loss or detention of equipment prior to this incident.”

The defence minister sounded arrogant and illogical. The fact that China or any other country have not detained the Terrex vehicles in the past surely does not mean that Singapore had all along been doing the right thing. And if Singapore had been transporting such vehicles illegally in the past, it does not mean that China is estopped from taking action now.

China is a world power. Singapore is a small country. Why threaten China with legal proceedings when the vehicles were just detained last week? Shouldn’t the minister use more diplomacy before using threats? What is the point of bragging about its role in arranging two meetings between Taiwan and China in the past? It is childish. He should realise that in real life, one good turn doesn’t always deserve another.

Finally, I am amused at the anger and frustration of the defence minister. It seems to me that the minister and the government are having a taste of what they do to people they govern. The loss of personal properties by an innocent individual cannot be compared to the loss of nine Terrex Infantry Carrier vehicles and other equipment in monetary terms. But the frustration and anger which a person experiences when his or her properties are confiscated by the authority without good reason may be equal if not more than what the minister feels. After all, the minister does not suffer any personal loss since the Terrex vehicles are paid for by taxpayers. In this regard, I am of course thinking of all the properties confiscated by the police just because the offences under investigation are “arrestable offences” and not because there are good reasons for doing so.

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