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18 Sep 06
A small group of Singaporean activists who have spent two days and nights on the sidewalk of a busy city intersection after being prevented from holding a protest march were distributing flyers Monday to promote free speech.
Encircled by two dozen police, the activists – who have numbered between six and ten – have camped out at a park in central Singapore since Saturday. Police had prevented them from marching to Parliament and then to the convention center where the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings are being held.
Led by the opposition Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan, the protesters were handing out flyers Monday, calling for greater freedom of speech and assembly in the city-state.
Police also allowed the protesters to leave the park and walk to Raffles Place, at the heart of the city-state’s business district, to distribute flyers – after they promised not to resume their march.
“We are protesting against the denial of the rights of Singaporeans to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. These rights are crucial in helping to protect our interests,” said Chee, the party’s secretary-general.
Chee said the protesters will remain at the park until Tuesday when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong makes a speech at the IMF-World Bank meetings.
Also Monday, a separate group of activists held a protest within an indoor space authorized for demonstrations at the IMF-World Bank meetings, calling on the two Washington-based institutions to reduce conditions tied to aid and debt relief to poor countries.
Public protests are rare in Singapore as outdoor gatherings of more than four people require a police permit.