World Bank: S’pore Govt making excuses not to allow protests

September 9, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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The Associated Press
9 Sep 06

The World Bank said Saturday it might meet activists barred by host Singapore from its meeting next week at an alternative venue, adding that the city-state’s decision would be a factor in deciding who hosts future conferences.

Singapore hosts the International Monetary Fund/World Bank meeting next week, and has banned several “undesirable” activists from entering the country over fears they may use the conference to launch terrorist acts, said World Bank managing director Juan Jose Daboub.

“They said they are concerned with terrorist acts,” said Daboub, one of the bank’s two managing directors. “They are concerned about the security for the 4,000, 5,000 people that will come to the meetings, and for the Singapore people.”

No details were immediately available on how many activists have been banned from participating in Singapore. IMF/World Bank and World Trade Organization meetings have had a history of attracting activists, where demonstrations have sometimes turned violent.

Both the lending institution and its sister agency have asked the tightly governed Southeast Asian country to allow all properly accredited civil society representatives to attend the meetings in the interest of transparency, good governance and accountability.

Daboub said the decision by Singapore to ban certain civic groups that the World Bank wants to talk with would be a factor in determining where meetings would be held in the future. Washington D.C. will host its next meeting, which takes place every two years, Daboub said.

“I think for the future, it’s also an experience (for us),” Daboub told reporters. “Its a matter that it will be addressed (by the World Bank board)…The fact that the Singapore government is extremely concerned about terrorist acts is something we cannot corroborate.”

Singapore is averse to public demonstrations, and frequently cites “law and order” problems in denying civic groups police permits needed to gather outdoors.

As an alternative, Daboub said the lending institution was considering meeting civic groups elsewhere — but only if they are allowed entry into the city-state.

“It is something that we are exploring in Singapore,” he said. “We need to know first if they are coming in. We will explore the possibility of meeting with them in a different setting but it will be done in consultation with the government of Singapore.”

Daboub, El Salvador’s former finance minister, was in Hanoi to attend a meeting of Pacific Rim finance ministers, and will head for the Philippines next before going to Singapore.