30 Aug 06
Singapore will deploy at least 10,000 personnel to prevent terrorist attacks and illegal protests at next month’s International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in the city’s biggest-ever security operation.
National servicemen have been called up, the coastguard will increase searches of ships and helicopters will report on illegal assemblies, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Aubeck Kam told reporters today.
Certain “troublemakers” known to international authorities may be barred from entering Singapore altogether, he said.
Singapore, which expects 16,000 visitors for the Sept. 12- 20 gathering, is closing down swathes of the city center and bolstering police patrols after the London bomb attacks in July last year coincided with the Group of Eight summit in Scotland. The city-state’s laws allow “the use of lethal weapons” to disperse unauthorized public meetings.
“Security is really the big priority,” Kam said. “We will not entertain any notion of allowing groups of people to gather and form into larger and larger groups. We are prepared to deal with protestors in a firm, decisive, but fair manner.”
At the 2005 World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong, police used tear gas to quell crowds and arrested more than 1,000 people, while 600 were injured during IMF meetings in Prague in 2000 after protestors hurled cobblestones at police.
For next month’s meeting, groups accredited by the World Bank and the IMF will be allowed to demonstrate in a designated area in the lobby of the Suntec convention center that’s hosting the meetings. The government forbids the public assembly of more than four people without permits.
“We will enforce our laws on public demonstrations equally to all persons,” Kam said. “If anybody behaves in a way that threatens the life of another or threatens serious injury to another, then the police will use all necessary means to prevent that harm taking place, and in appropriate situations this may extend to the use of firearms and the possibility of death.”
Jubilee South, an international movement formed in 1999 to cut the debts of emerging countries, says in a statement on the group’s Web site that it will “take to the streets and plazas” in Singapore during the meeting.
Singaporeans are able to hold indoor public meetings without permission, though foreigners need a permit. Chee Soon Juan, the Singapore Democratic Party leader who in June was charged with making unauthorized public speeches, has been denied a license to stage an outdoor march, Kam said.
Civil Society Organizations
Kam, who said the police has spent two years preparing for next month’s meeting, is expecting “several hundred” civil society organizations, or so-called CSOs, to be accredited. He declined to specify the size of the area allocated for the lobbyists, while saying it would be sufficient.
“It will be something that will allow the CSOs, should they wish to conduct their demonstrations, to do whatever they wish to do in that area,” he said.
Judging by previous World Bank and IMF meetings, CSOs spend much of their time in meetings and don’t hold demonstrations all day, Kam said. He declined to say what he’ll do if the allocated space isn’t big enough.
World Bank Singapore representative Peter Stephens said this month that Singapore should allow outdoor protests. As of Aug. 17, about 200 representatives of CSOs had been accredited to participate in the meetings, and a further 200 had submitted applications, the World Bank said in an Aug. 18 e-mail.
As well as preparing for possible protests, Singapore is tightening security to prevent terror attacks.
Singapore police said in a statement today officers will carry out random security checks in shopping malls and on public transport across the island, while people may be searched near the convention center or the hotels where delegates are staying.
Singapore’s navy and coast guard yesterday boarded a ship in a drill aimed at improving the government’s ability to tackle piracy and terrorism in the Singapore and Malacca straits, which are among the world’s busiest sea lanes.
Still, Kam said today there’s no intelligence to suggest a specific terrorist attack is planned for the meeting.