13 Aug 2006

IMF/World Bank Riots

Singapore likes to get important meetings to be held here - it generates news and gets the attention of future tourists, and shows to its citizens that the country is taken serious internationally, to the credit of the government. It is something the government is willing to invest in, not just by helping in the financial and logistic aspects, but also in fostering the right atmosphere. In fact, for the World Bank - International Monetory Fund meeting of September 2006 here, the government organizers asked people to provide smiling images of themselves to be displayed in various kinds of publicity material, including street side TV screens which normally show product advertisements paid for by marketeers - presumably the organizers have already pre-booked the screen display slots during the meeting period.

Around the world, various protest organizations have people who specialize in going to demonstrate on particular issues wherever such important meetings are held. When WTO held its December 2005 meeting in Hong Kong, Korean farmers were the most prominent demonstrators, much overshadowing the environmentalists and peace activists. The Falungong guys were expected to be present in force, but their blows were somewhat blunted by a number of their activists being stopped at the airport and denied entry. The June 4th guys are by now such a negligible force that they made virtually no stir.

Singapore seldom has demos and riots, but its riot control capability is not to be belittled, having been retained from the colonial and early independence days of the 60s. It last came into action during the 1997 general election, when the crowd leaving one opposition rally got rowdy and began demonstrating in the streets, for which they had no permit. (The rally had a permit of course, but it only applied to the specific rally venue). The party leaders tried to persuade the crowd to go home, but to no avail, and the small number of police squad cars sent to the scene could not handle the crowd. In accordance with standard procedure, they withdrew to avoid becoming the target of attack if the mood got more hostile, to wait for the arrival of the properly equipped and trained riot control team. In the mean time, plain clothes men would mingle with the crowd and identify the ring leaders, so that these could be pointed out to the riot squadmen and be arrested. Without the leaders the urge them on and show them what to do, and faced with a wall of shields and batons, the crowd would lost heart and be ready to disperse, and even the most hardened members would usually retreat when the wall threatened to advance. Any remaining ringleaders would hesitate to initiate anything knowing that such signs would usually cause them to be arrested and pulled to the other side of the shield wall. The team was also deployed in small ways during a Falungong demo in McRitchie and one by workers from China over losses with a defaulting remittance firm.

The police has designed some specific indoor areas for demonstrations that have obained permits, which organizations known to WB-IMF can apply for. Police presence in the streets around the meeting venue is likely to be strong, and any sign of a crowd gathering is going to be immediately dealt with and the people will be told to move on. Since the immigration department would already have prepared lists of banned individuals by collecting names of people involved in previous demonstrations at Davos, WTO, and past WB-IMF meetings, it is not clear whether enough demonstrators would enter Singapore during the period to hold co-ordinated gatherings at different locations in order to overwhelm the police capability. Demonstrators need to arrive early and become familiar with the locality in order to make such coordination possible, but that requires financial outlays for accommodation and other expenses, or get local supporters to help them. This seems unlikely here.


Anonymous said...

Your posts are personal opinion pieces, often riddled with mis-information and shallow analysis.

This one basically equates all forms of "demonstrations" with riots.

The post-election rally "demonstration" you cited was in 2001, not 1997. A dozen or so supporters of the opposition SDA were handing out leaflets to motorists. It was hardly a demonstration.

- Nir Azan

yuen said...

opinion piece? sure; at least it is not pro-PAP propaganda nor anti-PAP ranting

by all means point out errors and offer differing opinions; that is all too seldom done, as you well know

Anonymous said...

singapore and riot, don't make me laugh. why bother, the outide world think the island is in china.

what ever the island does or says is of no condquence. you possess an army of castrated half blind soldiers who would run a mile if they had to face live action, and the airforce is no0 better. I no of no other airforce in the world thats allows it's pilots to wear glasses.

so the IMF gentlemen will come to singapore probably visit orchard towers or gayland and pick up food poisioning in newton circus.

they will go back to the civilised world and laugh at their experiences as they discover singapore is the hub of hubs.

as for rioting, I don't think anybody would bother.

they may also laugh at singapore's efforts to tart up the country, a bit like soldiers in the uk painting the coal white when they have a royal visit.

Anonymous said...

I am sure Orchard Towers and Newton Circus appreciate your advertising.

Matilah_Singapura said...

According to today's Sydney Morning Herald, there will be no protests.

To me this is fantastic. Suntec City is privately owned (Lee Ka Shing) and therefore it is PRIVATE PROPERTY. The owners have no obligation to allow their property for anything untoward.

Finally the govt has come to its senses. And I'd like to think my letter made a difference.

I don't see why I should have my life disrupted by a bunch of morons who have an "opinion". Everyone has an opinion. No one however, has the right to disrupt the lives of others who aren't the least interested in their "opinion".

As I said before, these people can protest on the internet, or some other place, where those who aren't "hip to their message" can be simply left alone to do as they please.

No one should be forced to listen to anyone elses opinion, if they so choose or have something better to do — like shopping, eating or going to the beach.