11 Sep 2006

IMF denounces Singapore barricades

A large cynical part of me feels that the IMF is not really that upset at the machinations of the Singapore PAP. It is well known on a global level that Singapore is a repressive regime and by choosing to hold their annual meeting in this state the IMF/WB have to an extent endorsed this 'police state'.

The 'denouncing' from the IMF/WB and the words of condemnation from leaders like the American Paul D. Wolfowitz, are simply and plainly 'words'. No action of any consequence will be taken - the PAP will not be hauled before of any international court, the security council of the United Nations will not be called into session and business contracts will remain as before.

Singapore and in particular the PAP are more than aware of their regional significance on the global stage. With China entering the market at a greater speed than most could have imagined and depending more and more on oil from the middle east, most of which passes through the Strait of Malacca, Singapore is a strategic military base for the United States of America. Only if and when China manages to get its oil direct from the middle east via pipelines will Singapore have lost that strategic military importance. But for now and the foreseeable future the USA needs to keep onside with the 'police state' that is Singapore.

The war of rhetoric will continue for the next few days but we all know that nothing will actually be done by those in power beyond verbal attempts to appear on the side of human rights to calm the NGO's of the USA, Europe and the region.

Just how close are these IMF and WB leaders prepared to appear to be dancing with this little 'police state'? At the moment they appear to be at arms length, but then again the music has only started.

Singapore (dpa) - Steel barricades were erected Monday around a park opposite the Suntec City venue of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings in a clear signal that the city-state has no intention of relaxing its tough stand on civil society groups.

"Enhanced security measures against potential terrorist and public order threats need to be implemented," said a police spokesman.

The IMF and World Bank in addition to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have issued stinging criticisms of Singapore's ban on all outdoor demonstrations during the annual meetings this week, and barring of 20 of the 500 people representing NGOs accredited by the two international financial institutions.

Arriving members of civil society organizations (CSOs) made their disappointment clear when confronted with the 14-by-8 metre space allocated to them for indoor protests in a corner of the lobby.

Goh Chien Yen, a representative of Third World Network, said the government was misinformed about the role of CSOs.

They are not in Singapore "simply to demonstrate." Many are serious professionals who "have worked on many of these global issues for a very long time," he said.

In addition to putting up barbed wire and steel fences around War Memorial Bark, police said that similar structures were being erected around parts of City Hall and other places where they are deemed necessary.

The refusal to ease constraints on civil-society groups was seen as particularly embarrassing for World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, who has called on poor countries to strengthen the roles of NGOs.

Last week, he urged Singapore authorities to reverse the prohibition on the 20 prohibited activists and earlier pressed for outside demonstrations.

The 16,000 delegates from 184 countries were descending on Singapore ahead of Wednesday's official start of the IMF-World Bank meetings.

Among the issues they will focus on are plans to give poor and rapidly developing countries more voting power in the IMF, addressing criticism of the IMF since its handling of the 1997 currency crisis in Asia and giving the body more of a surveillance role.

Although demonstrations at past annual meetings have sometimes turned violent, recent years' protests have been peaceful.

Police defended the indoor area designated for the civil society groups as practical because the majority of delegates will pass by after they get off buses and clear security.

Jarrod Pereira, Singapore police assistant director of operations for security and counterterrorism, said that materials such as wooden poles for banners brought by activists would be replaced with cardboard shafts.

Several surveillance cameras were mounted above the demonstration area.

"These civil society organizations are intrinsically peaceful," said Lee Chen Chen of Action Aid International.

Leaders have described Singapore as a "prime target for terrorists" to justify the overwhelming security and barring of the group of activists.

Singapore has been counting on its largest event drawing 16,000 delegates to propel the city-state in its bid to become a safe place to hold international conventions and other meetings.

Activists note that standing fast in the government's position against them will result in embarrassment for the city-state, the IMF and the World Bank, particularly at a time when the two agencies have been accused of being less responsive to activist complaints.

Chee Soon Juan, a Singapore opposition party member, tried Sunday to distribute pamphlets urging the public to take part in a march this week. Police seized the pamphlets and are investigating the case.

Singapore has outlawed public assembly since the 1960s, when violence killed 36 people. Any outdoor gathering of four or more people requires a police permit.

More than 10,000 police and military will be on the lookout for unlawful gatherings, including the use of helicopters hovering above. Security has also been beefed up on vessels offshore.

Singapore has spent 60 million US dollars on the event since it was awarded the bid six years ago.


1 comment:

Matilah_Singapura said...

If a country is a prime target for terrorists, and the lives of the people are in grave danger, then the FIRST logical and morally correct step is to encourage the citizens to ARM THEMSELVES.

"An Armed Society is a Polite Society" — Robert Heinlein.