By Geert De Clercq
Thursday, September 14, 2006; 9:50 AM
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore said on Thursday it might admit some of the 27 civil rights activists it barred from an IMF-World Bank meeting, but the bank rejected the government's softer stance as being insufficient.
Singapore had originally blocked the activists from attending the September 11-20 meetings on the grounds they posed a threat to security and public order.
But in an apparent attempt to placate the monetary chiefs, who along with the European Union have criticized the city-state's tight security, Singapore said on Thursday it was willing to reconsider the ban on the activists.
"The IMF/WB have asked the government to allow in the 27 activists. The government has responded that if these activists travel to Singapore, we will assess at the point of entry whether they pose a security or safety risk," the Singapore 2006 Organizing Committee said in a statement.
"If we judge the risk to be acceptable for that particular activist, we are prepared to allow him or her in. However, we cannot guarantee that all 27 activists will be admitted to Singapore," it said.
The statement was issued shortly after World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
"This statement is not a sufficient response to give the individuals in question the assurance that they would be granted access," a World Bank official told Reuters.
"We have accredited these individuals based on clearance by their respective governments and we believe they should be able to participate in our meetings."
Wolfowitz had said earlier that he hoped the ban on the activists was not a case of censorship, adding that it might be in breach of a 2003 agreement with the city-state.
But the Singapore 2006 committee said the memorandum of understanding signed between IMF/WB and the Singapore government "obliges Singapore to take all necessary measures for the safe passage of all persons in and out of Singapore."
It said the government takes this duty seriously in view of the international security environment.
Antonio Tricarico of Italy's Reform the World Bank said that according to the list, Singapore's objection to his accreditation was based on security and law and order considerations.
"Technically, that means terrorism. This is absurd," he told Reuters. Tricarico is the first person on the blacklist, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
Earlier, Singapore police said they had detained three Singaporeans who were planning to distribute flyers criticizing the IMF and World Bank and had seized their computers.
Police spokesman Mohamed Razif said they were investigating the men under legislation stating that anyone possessing materials which contain "any incitement to violence or counseling disobedience to the law" would be jailed for up to three years or fined, or both.
On Wednesday, Singapore deported two Filipino activists who had been planning to join anti-IMF protests.
(Additional reporting by Wee Sui Lee)
15 Sep 2006
From The Washington Post