Singapore (ANTARA News) - Over 2,000 activists who plan protests at the IMF and World Bank conference in Singapore next month said they will hold their rallies on a nearby Indonesian island because of Singapore's ban on demonstrations.
Trade unionists, farmers and activists from Jubilee South, a network of non-governmental organisations, plan to demonstrate on Batam, less than an hour by boat from Singapore, participating in a worldwide protest linking 350 activist groups in 74 countries.
"Since Singapore doesn't respect the rights of people to express their views, we are moving the demonstrations to Batam, where there is more democratic space," Lidya Nacpil, international coordinator of Jubilee South, told Reuters on Wednesday.
The group is already in touch with Indonesia about logistics, she said.
Anti-globalisation activists usually gather at similar international summits, but Singapore will make no exceptions to its ban on demonstrations and has said it will arrest lawbreakers and cane vandals.
Public protests are rare in Singapore. Any public gathering of more than four people requires a police permit and a person convicted of unlawful assembly can be fined up to S$1,000 ($650).
Caning is commonly used as punishment for offences ranging from vandalism to drugs. Offenders are strapped to an A-shaped wooden frame and lashed across the bare buttocks by a professional caner with a rattan rod.
In 1994, Singapore made international headlines when it caned American teenager Michael Fay for spray-painting cars.
Singapore, which expects over 16,000 delegates and officials to descend on the city-state for the Sept. 11-20 World Bank/IMF meeting, has said outdoor protests are banned because they could be exploited by terrorist groups to stage attacks.
Indoor protests allowed
The city-state has only conceded that it would allow indoor protests within a designated area in the lobby of the conference venue. The lobby area is smaller than a football field.
According to guidelines issued by the police, activist groups must not move out of the designated areas, and are not allowed to use sound amplification systems or burn items or behave in a manner that would "provoke a breach of peace".
Protesters must also be properly attired at all times.
The World Bank has said outdoor protests should be allowed during the conference, but Singapore police said they would not waive the current rules.
"The Bank's preference for these meetings and all others has been to seek space for civil society to protest peacefully outside. That remains our preferred position," Peter Stephens, spokesman for World Bank Singapore, said in a statement.
Some groups said they plan to organise indoor seminars.
"We still need to maximise our space and make ourselves heard, so we will be organising seminars at hotels around the conference centre to discuss issues such as agrarian reforms," said Indra Lubis, a project assistant at La Via Campesina (The Peasant Way), an international group which represents over 80 million farmers worldwide.
"But frankly, it is not a very effective way to voice our concerns. How are the delegates going to hear us when we are put in separate rooms?" (*)