By John Burton in Singapore and Shawn Donnan in Jakarta
Published: September 8 2006 13:16 Last updated: September 8 2006 13:16
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank on Friday issued an unprecedented rebuke to Singapore over a ban on accredited activists invited to attend the annual meetings of the two financial institutions next week.
The IMF/World Bank suggested that Singapore had violated the terms of its agreement to host the event by blocking the entry of 19 civil society representatives, who allegedly posed a security threat.
"Singapore had promised to faciliate the entry of accredited representatives under the memorandum of understanding with us," a World Bank official said. The IMF/World Bank was only informed this week of Singapore's plans.
The crackdown is part of tough security measures that Singapore will implement during the September 11-20 meetings. The government will also ban all outdoor demonstrations and has warned it will shoot at violent protesters, citing the threat of terrorist attacks.
The incident represents a setback to the IMF/World Bank, which has sought to improve relations with non-governmental organisations that have accused them of conducting policies that have ignored the plight of the world's poor. A record 500 NGO representatives are accredited to attend this year's meeting.
"This is a major blow to the credibility of the IMF/World Bank. It's terribly embarrassing since the World Bank had adopted good goverance as the theme of this year's meeting," said Antonio Tricarrio with Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale, who was one of those banned.
Mr Tricarrio said he was "astounded" at Singapore's decision since his group was a widely-respected organisation that had never been associated with violent activities.
Some NGOs alleged that the IMF/World Bank, which holds its annual meetings outside Washington every three years, had selected Singapore as the venue for this year's meeting because of its authoritarian reputation. Previous IMF/World Bank meetings have been marred by violent protests.
Among those banned by Singapore were representatives from the UK-based World Development Movement, Thailand's Focus on the Global South, the Freedom from Debt Coalition in the Philippines and the Forum on Indonesian Development (Infid).
The IMF/World Bank said these "individuals have been cleared to attend the annual meetings by their respective governments and we have accredited them according to our standard procedure."
"We strongly urge the Singapore government to act swiftly and reverse their decision on entry and access to the meetings for these representatives," the IMF/World Bank said in a joint statement.
The Singapore police force said this week that it had compiled a list of potential "troublemakers" who would be denied entry to the city-state. “Every country reserves the right to determine whether a foreigner would be eligible for entry into the country,” said the Singapore police on Friday.
Some NGOs had planned to hold rallies on the neighbouring Indonesian island of Batam because of the security measures in Singapore. But they were told this week by the local police that the protest would be banned because foreign groups were involved in violation of the law.
The chief of Indonesia’s national police, Sutanto, told reporters that NGOs would not be allowed to hold protests on Batam, although authorities would let them meet. “Seminars are welcome,” he said. “But there should be no political agenda, let alone rallies, because this could make foreigners think Indonesia is not safe for investment.”
Additional reporting by Alan Beattie in London and Taufan Hidayat in Jakarta
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