What is sovereign immunity and will it help get our Terrexes back?


Tan Xing Qi | January 10, 2017, 03:54 PM

Boys and girls, let’s talk about the coolest term in town, made popular by the latest episode of "Return our Terrexes!" yesterday.


Sovereign immunity.

Sovereign immunity. What the heck is that? According to NUS Law Professor Tan Cheng Han, who told Straits Times: The doctrine of sovereign immunity is a principle of international law that one state cannot be sued in the courts of another state without the consent of the first mentioned state, nor will the courts of a state seize or detain property that belongs to another state.

English, please. Sure. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen used the term to describe our Terrexes in Parliament, saying: “They (the Terrexes) 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.”

But is this sovereign immunity recognised by other countries and jurisdictions? Ng said: “This principle is well-established under international law, and we are advised by lawyers that it is also the law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region."

Wait a minute. You mean Hong Kong... Yes. In 2011, a Hong Kong Court of Appeal ruled that the principle of sovereign immunity as recognised by China applies to Hong Kong.

You mean China too? Then what’s the problem? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Oh but I read somewhere that China urged us to be cautious in our remarks and actions? Yes, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang used “谨言慎行”

Channel 5, please. Official translation: “We hope that the relevant party will be discreet with words and deeds.”

What does this mean? Simply put, we still have to check blind spots before we change lanes.

Why do I think there’s more than meets the eye? Did you forget to take your medicine?

So what happens next? PM Lee Hsien Loong had written to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, requesting the immediate return of our Terrexes. Hong Kong has responded that the investigation is ongoing and will take some time to complete, and that the matter will be handled in accordance with their laws.

Should we send some bak kwa or pineapple tarts over? Perhaps. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In the meantime, we leave you with this awesome MV -

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Top photo from Mindef.

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