Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Singapore bans 28 activists accredited by IMF

28 activists accredited by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have been prevented from coming to Singapore during the upcoming IMF/World Bank meeting. Singapore Police said that they are concerned that these people will undermine the securiy of the country. From International Herald Tribune:
The activists are members of eight civil society groups from the region and elsewhere, and have been previously involved in "disruptive activities," senior police officials said at a press conference.

Police did not identify the blacklisted individuals but Chief of Staff Soh Wai Wah said that one of the activists had previously broken into the World Bank's headquarters in Washington D.C. and stolen confidential documents while another demonstrator was involved in the takeover of a consulate in San Francisco.

"Among the people that we have raised objections to, there are characters who have been involved in disruptive activities in Seattle in 1999, Genoa in 2001, in Cancun in '03," Soh said, referring to anti-globalization protests that erupted in Seattle during the World Trade Organization meeting, demonstrations against the G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy, and the WTO protests in Cancun, Mexico.

"We are concerned about the things that they do, we're concerned about the activities they perform that will undermine our security and that may create law and order problems for us," he said.

The IMF and World Bank on Friday urged Singapore to reverse its decision to blacklist accredited individuals and allow the activists to attend next week's meetings in the interest of transparency and accountability. But Singapore said it had the right to determine whether a foreigner is eligible for entry into its territory, and that the city-state had to be cautious not to compromise the security of the high-profile event.
Singapore's decision has definitely angered the IMF, World Bank and political activists who may become unlikely allies in the fight for freedom of speech in Singapore. From Guardian:
Among the 28 banned is Walden Bello, a 60-year-old Filipino who heads an NGO called the Focus on the Global South. His 'crimes' according to the police, were to break into the World Bank headquarters to steal documents and occupy a consulate in San Francisco.

Mr Bello told Reuters he published a book in 1981, based on leaked World Bank documents and in 1978 staged a sit-in in the Philippines' San Francisco mission to protest the regime of the then dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Another activist denied entry is Antonio Tricarrio, a co-ordinator of the Italy-based Campaign to Reform the World Bank, which has been engaging with the two institutions for more than a decade.

"We have never been involved as an organisation or as individuals in undemocratic and violent behaviour, we have never been charged in our lives and we don't understand why this is happening," he was quoted by Singapore's Straits Times newspaper as saying...

World Bank officials, including the president, Paul Wolfowitz, have condemned both the banning of the activists and the restrictions on demonstrations.

"What makes us mad is the fact that people we've accredited are not allowed in," the World Bank's Indonesia country director, Andrew Steer, told Guardian Unlimited.

"This has forced the World Bank to clarify what it believes in, and what it believes in is freedom of speech."
Meanwhile in a related news, Indonesia has allowed activists to gather in nearby Batam island. From Reuters:
Indonesia will allow activists to hold a gathering on Batam island to protest against a World Bank and IMF conference in Singapore, Antara state news agency quoted the national police spokesman as saying on Monday.

Activists announced plans to meet on Batam after Singapore banned demonstrations, but local police had refused a permit, citing concerns about a possible negative impact on the economy.

"The anti-IMF seminar will not be banned provided its organisers report the activity to the police," national police spokesman Paulus Purwoko was quoted as saying by Antara.

He added that Batam police had been told to facilitate the meeting.

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