By John Burton in Singapore
Published: January 18 2006 01:09 | Last updated: January 18 2006 01:09
Violent protesters at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Singapore could face caning and imprisonment, a minister said yesterday.
The warning came as Singapore suggested it might impose restrictions on an agreement with the IMF and the World Bank to allow demonstrations during their meetings in September.
As part of a policy of constructive engagement, the World Bank and IMF have allowed non-governmental organisations to hold rallies at annual meetings as long as the groups are accredited by the two organisations.
But Wong Kan Seng, the home affairs minister and deputy prime minister, said Singapore reserved the right to vet further the accredited group to determine “the potential impact on law and order as well as the suitability of the proposed [rally] location” before a police permit would be issued. Violent protesters would face the threat of caning and imprisonment, as prescribed under Singapore law, he said.
Singapore acceded to the request by the IMF and World Bank allowing demonstrations to gain the right to host what is expected to be the biggest meeting in the city-state’s history.
Demonstrations are normally banned in Singapore, where outdoor political gatherings of four or more persons are illegal without a police permit.
The last police licence for a demonstration was issued in the late 1980s to the state-affiliated trade union movement, which rallied outside the US embassy to protest against alleged interference in Singapore’s affairs.
Chee Soon Juan, head of the opposition Singapore Democratic party, has suggested that he would use the IMF/World Bank gathering to stage non-violent civil disobedience activities in protest against what he says is government repression. Mr Wong has warned the government will crack down on such protests.