Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Singapore Police Part 2

This is another example of how the police use its power to maintain control in Singapore, as seen in this artice in The Straits Times today. Please see earlier posting.

Aug 23, 2006
Police say 'no' again to outdoor protests
By Tanya Fong

POLICE are standing by their decision to not allow outdoor demonstrations at next month's World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings.

They said they recognised the important role civil society organisations (CSOs) play at such events. However, they were unable to waive the rules which prohibit outdoor demonstrations as they did not want 'to compromise the high level of security that will be in place during the conference'.

Earlier, the World Bank's Singapore representative Peter Stephens had urged the authorities to allow outdoor protests by accredited groups during the gatherings next month, expected to be attended by 16,000 international delegates from more than 180 countries, including heads of governments, central bankers, finance and corporate chiefs.

He told Bloomberg News: 'The bank's preference is that civil society groups should be able to peacefully express their views outside of the conference facility in a way that doesn't cause disruption.'

He added that 'we have our preference and Singapore has its laws, so we are trying to find an area that's acceptable to all.'

Police said they had made 'maximum effort' to facilitate the involvement of CSOs, within the framework of Singapore's laws. They pointed out that a private secured area in the lobby of Suntec City, the conference venue, had been earlier set aside for accredited groups to hold demonstrations.

The World Bank said this year's meetings are expected to attract 'the largest number ever of CSOs'.

So far, about 200 have been accredited to participate and another 200 are seeking approval. They include non-governmental organisations, faith-based groups, labour unions, and research centres, from over 45 countries.

The World Bank and the IMF's Civil Society Team are jointly organising a forum to which CSO leaders will be invited to take part in the event, including meeting top officials like the Bank's president Paul Wolfowitz.

A spokesman for the meeting coordinator, the Singapore 2006 organising committee, also said the World Bank had 'suggested some alternatives', which the committee will consider.

Yesterday, opposition politician Chee Soon Juan said he planned to lead a protest march during the event. The secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party said its aims are to highlight what he described as the denial of democracy in Singapore, and the plight of its poor and working class.

The objective is noble -- the overriding concerns for security in the biggest-ever event to be held in Singapore -- but critics will always feel that the control stymies healthy developments to promote a more open and vibrant society. I mean, even World Bank people don't mind the protest.

In Singapore, the gathering of five people in a public place without official sanction is considered an illegal assembly. The law seems rather strict. Will a gathering of me and four of my puppy buddies be considered illegal? Hmmm, let me ask daddy. :-)

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