Saturday, September 16, 2006

Singapore reversal a little too late

Singapore has now allowed 22 of the 27 activists who had been banned earlier, to enter Singapore for the IMF/World Bank meetings after criticism from World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz. From Channel NewsAsia:
22 of the 27 Civil Society Organisation (CSO) representatives will now be allowed to enter Singapore for the IMF/World Bank meetings.

The move comes after Singapore reviewed its decision based on input provided by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

However, the remaining five will still be subjected to interviews and may not be let in, if they attempt to enter the country.

In response, the World Bank says it is pleased with the Singapore government's decision.

It says it is notifying those affected of their change in status.

But it continues to urge Singapore to allow all persons accredited for the meetings to enter the country.
But this surprising reversal from Singapore has come a little too late. From Bangkok Post:
"Expensive travel plans have already been undone, and many CSOs are unable to fly to Singapore on a moment's notice," said Romilly Greenhill, senior policy analyst for Action Aid International.

"This gesture is, quite simply, too little too late," Greenhill said...

"The damage has been done," said Eric Gutierrez, international policy coordinator for the same group.

Positive reactions were also absent from the hundreds of activists on the Indonesian island of Batam, where CSOs opted to hold a forum after Singapore prohibited the gathering, as well as all outdoor activities, in the interests of security and preventing the violence that took place at the 2005 World Trade Organization Meeting in Hong Kong.

"I think the government really owes us an explanation for why there was a blacklist in the first place," Shalmali Guttal of Focus on the Global South said.
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz had said earlier that Singapore's decision to ban accredited activists ahead of the World Bank and IMF meeting violated a previous agreement. He also called Singapore authoritarian. From Reuters:
"Enormous damage has been done and a lot of that damage is done to Singapore and self-inflicted. This could have been an opportunity for them to showcase to the world their development process," Wolfowitz said in response to questions from civil society organizations at a town hall meeting in Singapore.

"I would argue whether it has to be as authoritarian as it has been and I would certainly argue that at the stage of success they have reached, they would do much better for themselves with a more visionary approach to the process."
(Thanks Mr Big, piperlee)

Previously: Singapore breaks protest deal


Anonymous said...

The short: Good one, IMF. Very clever.
The long: Here's a
to what I have to say. It's LONG.

Anonymous said...

Nice to hear that Mr Wolfowitz calls Singapore government authoritarian. Now the whole world will know.

Anonymous said...

it's hilarious to see what the police is doing to chee soon juan and his followers at the speaker's corner.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This is big publicity disaster for Sg.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Singapore, fellas!!!!

Anonymous said...

most singaporeans wont understand the importance of free speech anyway... they are just to occupied with their daily comfortable lives.

Anonymous said...

I love my country man but this is getting embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

im no fan of chee soon juan but at least he is doing something for freedom of speech: A SINGAPORE Opposition leader, who has been surrounded by police in a prolonged downtown stand-off over the right to protest, said today he would refuse to move until Tuesday's formal start of the IMF-World Bank meetings.

Chee Soon Juan, head of the tiny Singapore Democratic Party, had planned a rally in a city park yesterday, followed by a protest march to Parliament and the convention centre where thousands of financial big shots, bankers and journalists are attending the IMF-World Bank meetings.

But Chee, his sister Chee Siok Chin, and five supporters, were prevented from leaving Hong Lim park, near Singapore's Speakers' Corner, as about 30 armed police formed human barricades around the Chees yesterday and today, at times linking arms and pressing close to them to stop their movement.

"Since the police have prevented us from moving to parliament house, we are left with no choice but to remain here at Speakers' Corner. We will stay here until Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gives his opening speech at the IMF opening ceremony on Tuesday morning," Chee said.

He added that it was important for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to be aware of issues such as the lack of transparency and accountability in Singapore.

"Singapore has one of the best rankings in the world on control of corruption, but it ranks in the middle of the pack on voice and accountability, below much poorer countries such as Brazil and Botswana," the World Bank said in its latest report on governance, published on Friday.

It said "voice and accountability" refer to the extent to which a country's citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association and a free media.

Chee had wanted to protest about the city-state's restrictions on freedom of speech and its widening income gap. Under Singapore law, public gatherings of more than four people require a police permit.

Throughout the night, changing shifts of police kept guard over Chee and his sister on a corner of the park.

Supporters brought the Chees and the other activists food and water, and the pair slept briefly on the pavement. Puzzled passers-by, among them party-goers on their way home, the odd cyclist and early-morning joggers, stopped to stare or chat.

British tourist Christopher Osborn, 27, who saw the stand-off as he walked by on Saturday, decided to stay the entire night.

"I'm astounded by the police preventing the legitimate movement of people. The manner in which they are implementing it would be classified as intimidation. There's a disproportionate reaction and it shows another side to Singapore," he said.

Anonymous said...

'Empower Singaporeans' Protest March on the 16th Sept 2006