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Chan Sue Ling & Karima Anjani
11 Sept 06
Indonesian police will allow activists opposed to the policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to meet in Batam, 40 minutes by ferry from Singapore where the lenders are holding their annual meetings.
Activists were previously denied permission to hold the meeting on the island because it could hurt the political, security and investment environment in Indonesia, Anggaria Lopies, a spokesman from the Riau provincial police, said in a telephone interview today.
“The Indonesian police does not ban any seminar or discussion by local and international organizations in Batam, including criticism against the IMF,” said Paulus Purwoko, a national police spokesman. “The national and Batam police will provide protection should vandalism or violence occur.”
Campaign groups turned to Batam to hold their gathering after Singapore, which is seeking to avoid the violent protests that marred previous trade and finance summits in Hong Kong and Prague, refused to lift a ban on outdoor protests. Singapore has said it will deploy at least 10,000 personnel to prevent terrorist attacks and illegal protests at the meetings, which are expected to draw 16,000 visitors to the city-state.
About 700 activists from more than 70 civil society organizations worldwide will gather for meetings, which will be held between Sept. 15 and 17, said Sinapan Samydorai of Think Center, a non-governmental organization in Singapore that’s facilitating the Batam meeting.
If protesters hold demonstrations in Batam and “that is the alternative they see fit, it’s entirely up to them,” Lim Hwee Hua, Singapore’s junior minister for finance and transport, said on Aug. 31. “That’s outside of Singapore. Security is always our top priority.”
Singapore’s government barred some accredited activists from entering Singapore, drawing criticism from the World Bank and IMF. The city-state’s police, which last month said it would keep out certain “troublemakers” known to international authorities, said Sept. 8 persons “deemed undesirable” won’t be allowed to enter the country.
About 500 representatives from civil society organizations have been approved by the IMF and World Bank to take part in the discussions starting this week.
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz called the city-state’s move to block some activists from entering the country a “bad” decision and urged authorities to change their mind, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported on Sept. 8. Discussions with such groups are important, Wolfowitz was cited as saying.
“We’re meeting to criticize the governance and policies of the IMF and the Bank,” Chris Wangkay of International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development, which is organizing the meeting in Batam, said in a telephone interview from Jakarta today.
“We’re also going to criticize Singapore on why they are not allowing the NGOs to enter.”
The Singapore authorities have designated a specific gathering area for groups approved by the World Bank and the IMF to attend their annual meetings.