Singapore will not allow outdoor demonstrations during the upcoming annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank, but will set up an indoor venue for registered civil groups, the police chief of staff announced Friday.
Soh Wai Wah told a news conference that outdoor protests during the Sept. 11-20 meetings would compromise security, could be exploited by terrorists, and disrupt the day-to-day activities of the area, making things "unpleasant" for residents.
"In the current security climate, the priority is to ensure the safety and security of our residents, visitors and delegates to the meetings," Soh said.
But in recognition of the IMF/WB's tradition of "constructive engagement" with accredited civil society organizations, Singapore will set up a private area in the lobby of the conference venue for these groups to gather and engage with delegates.
"The police recognize the importance of the participation of civil security organizations in the event. We have made maximum effort to facilitate their involvement, within the framework of our laws," Soh said. "However, we are unable to waive the current rules which prohibit outdoor demonstrations and processions, so as not to compromise security."
Under national law, permits are required for any outdoor gathering of more than four people, Singaporean or foreigner, amounting to an effective ban on protests and demonstrations. Singaporeans can freely hold indoor meetings without a permit as long as the topic does not deal with race or religion. Foreign groups or foreign speakers must apply for a permit.
Soh said the civil groups must be accredited by the World Bank to gain access to the indoor venue.
The police official said Singapore was mobilizing its entire police force and its police national service to provide 24-hour security for the meetings, which are expected to gather 16,000 delegates and visitors. Security measures would include aerial monitoring of the venue and screening of visitors to the country.
"If any laws will be broken, the police will not hesitate to take firm and fair action to prosecute or to arrest any individuals. The action that we take will be proportionate to the actions of any lawbreakers," Soh said.
Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said earlier this year that Singapore could use severe punishments _ such as caning _ against protesters who commit violent acts such as vandalism, arson or causing harm during the IMF meetings.
28 Jul 2006
(Updated 05:15 p.m.)