13 Aug 2006
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.
Posted by yuen at 8/13/2006 02:17:00 am