8 Sep 06
Ana Maria Nemenzo, the Filipina representing the Philippine civil society to the annual meeting of the International Monetary Bank and the World Bank, has been barred by the Singapore government from entering the country “based on security and law and order considerations,” a letter sent to her by the IMF-WB group said.
Nevertheless, the IMF-WB urged Singapore to allow all activists invited by the finance institutions to attend this month’s meetings in the city-state after receiving a government statement objecting to the accreditation of several civil society representatives and stating its intention to prevent them from attending the September 11-20 meetings.
Law enforcement officials have previously said individuals or groups whose past behavior showed they were “liable to cause disruption or pose a security threat” could be denied access to the country ahead of the meetings.
Nemenzo, 67, FDC president and current international convenor of NGO Forum on the ADB, is in Amsterdam attending series of meetings related to the Singapore meet. She was scheduled to be a presenter at a forum on illegitimate debt.
The World Bank and IMF said they have accredited nearly 500 representatives of civil society groups from more than 45 countries.
The joint secretariat of the IMF-WB group told Nemenzo that despite its accreditation, Goh Chye Boon, co-chairman of the organizing committee for the Singapore 2006 meetings, banned her.
“They furthermore state that you ‘may be stopped at the Singapore government checkpoints if [you] choose to come to Singapore, or may not be allowed access into the Annual Meetings Venue,'” said the letter signed by Simonetta Nardin of IMF and Carolyn Reynolds of World Bank, a copy of which was sent to INQ7.net by Freedom from Debt Coalition coordinator Bobby Diciembre.
Nardin and Reynolds said they were “pursuing our objections to this decision vigorously with the Singapore authorities.”
“We have registered our strong disagreement with this decision, and noted that accreditation was given…The IMF and the World Bank will continue to accredit you, and you will appear on the list of individuals accredited to the Annual Meetings. We have urged the host government to provide entry and access to the Meetings for all accredited CSO [civil society organizations] representatives,” they said.
In a joint statement, the IMF-WB said Singapore should allow all properly accredited civil society representatives to attend the meetings in the interest of transparency, good governance and accountability.
“These individuals have been cleared to attend the Annual Meetings by their respective governments and we have accredited them according to our standard procedure,” the statement said. “We strongly urge the Singapore government to act swiftly and reverse their decision on entry and access to the Meetings for these representatives.”
Nardin and Reynolds said the IMF-WB had a Memorandum of Understanding with Singapore, which required its government “to assure expeditious entry procedures, including the issuance of visas when required and warranted for any observers and other persons included in the categories of participants specified in the Annual Meetings Requirements Manual who are accredited to or invited by the Organizations to be present for the Meetings.”
Donatus Marut, executive director of the Indonesian NGO Forum on Indonesian Development, or Infid, a Jakarta-based group, said he was also informed by the IMF-WB that Singapore doesn’t want him to attend the meetings even though he is accredited.
“I am very disappointed to know that Singapore has disallowed me from attending the meetings. These annual meetings are important for civil society groups representing developing countries to debate the policies of the World Bank and IMF, and suggest alternatives,” Marut said in a telephone interview.
Marut said the letter did not give a reason for the decision, but that it was likely related to his involvement in organizing a protest and forum on IMF and World Bank issues on the Indonesian island of Batam, a 30-minute ferry ride from Singapore.
He said Indonesian authorities informed him this week that they would not allow the Sept 15-18 forum and demonstration — with an anticipated 1,000 activists — to go ahead. Marut said the event had been organized in Batam instead of Singapore because the city-state had said it was strictly barring outdoor rallies.
Despite its explanation, FDC’s Diciembre said, “I think the IMF-WB is just washing its hands on this development.” He said the choice of the venue was already suspect.
The Annual Meetings of Boards of Governors of the IMF and the World Bank Group have customarily been held in Washington, DC for two consecutive years and in another member country in the third year.
Singapore has banned outdoor demonstrations during the IMF and World Bank meeting because they could lead to violence and damage to property. Indoor protests will be confined to the indoor lobby of the convention center, with access limited to local and foreign organizations accredited by the IMF and World Bank.
The city-state is mobilizing its entire police force and its reserve police national service to provide 24-hour security for the meetings, which are expected to gather 16,000 delegates and visitors.