14 Sep 2006

EU urges Singapore to lift ban on IMF activists

Wednesday September 13, 5:16 PM

BRUSSELS/SINGAPORE, Sept 13 (Reuters) - The European Union urged Singapore on Wednesday not to bar activists from entering the country to attend the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings this week.

Singapore has defended its move to prevent about 28 activists from attending the meetings, saying they posed a threat to security.

A statement from the Finnish EU Presidency said the activists had been accredited by the World Bank and should have the right to participate.

"The Presidency of the European Union is worried about the decision of the Singaporean authorities," it said. "The Presidency considers civil society participation an indispensable part of the World Bank and IMF Annual meetings."

The World Bank in a separate statement again urged the city-state to allow the activists into the country, saying the move by the Singapore government was a breach of an earlier agreement.

"This is a breach of the formal agreement we had with the government of Singapore, in a September 23, 2003 memorandum of understanding," an aide to World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said in a statement.

"We work with these representatives of civil society and we value their role -- even when we disagree with what they say," the World Bank said in the statement.

On Friday, the IMF and World Bank had issued a joint statement urging Singapore to allow accredited activists to attend the high-profile event. Earlier, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and non-governmental groups had also criticised Singapore's decision.

The EU said in its statement that open and constructive dialogue between civil society and the World Bank institutions was very important for the development of World Bank policies as well as for the transparency, credibility and legitimacy of the institutions.

"The Presidency urges the Government of Singapore to reconsider its decision to impose an entry ban on these civil society representatives," the statement from the EU Presidency said.

Singapore police said in a statement on Wednesday that no accredited activists had been barred from entering the city-state.

But it said it had deported two Filipinos and denied entry to one Indian national, none of whom was officially accredited, because they posed a potential threat to security and public order.

One of the two Filipino activists who had been planning to join anti-IMF protests, said on her return to the Philippines she had been questioned for more than five hours before she was sent back to the Philippines.

Chona Leah Ramos of the anti-globalisation group Jubilee South told Reuters that officials of Singapore's Changi airport approached her and Bobbie Diciembre of the Freedom from Debt Coalition as they were walking towards the immigration counter.

She said that the two were asked questions about their background, their mobile phones and laptop computers were inspected, they were photographed and their fingerprints were taken.

Singapore police said it had objected to the grant of accreditation to certain activists by the IMF and the World Bank but said that none of those had so far arrived in the city-state.

"If they come to Singapore, we will assess their suitability to enter Singapore subject to a set of security criteria," police said. It did not disclose the criteria.

Police has previously said the list of banned activists included people who had disrupted World Trade Organisation ministerial conferences in Seattle in 1999 and in Cancun in 2003.


Anonymous said...

This is generating a huge amount of negative publicity for Singapore and the World Bank in the UK right now - i'm hoping that the boycott by the major NGOs will persuade the IMF/World Bank not to hold future meetings in such an oppressive state.

Anonymous said...

how would you know? some organizations like to have no demos, just dont want to publicly say so

not clear how much is wayang; singaporeans ought to be used to wayang since they see it every day

ashamed said...

I am so sad with the bad publicity for our country due to the narrow-mindedness of some.

If we do not allow appearances of the CSOs or the NGOs (even though they have been accredited by their own countries and approved by IMF/World Bank), DID we make this CLEAR when we first bid for the WTO/IMF Conference here in 2002?

Or was it a case of deliberate omission ?

If we have made it clear and the IMF/World Bank still decide to come here, then we can be proud that we were honest about the whole thing.

Malu said...

I fully agree.

I have this bad feeling like some bad aftertaste or hangover after a party (in this case, a party that never was !)

With all the bad publicity in the world press, and even among the tourists,....the euphoria and the happiness we have all looked forward to, is GONE.

There are many ways to skin a cat.
I am sure there are many ways we could handle the Civil organisations as they rightly belong in the discussions with the IMF and the WORLD BANK...and they were approved by their own govts.

Now they had boycotted these meetings to have some useful dialogues and they are in Batam and elsewhere making their views heard.