Thursday, September 14, 2006

World Bank's Wolfowitz Says Singapore (Government) Backtracked on Agreement

In the Bloomberg story below, Sandy Krawitz of Action Aid International is quoted as saying "people who come here are very well educated and they are not wild-eyed activists with Molotov cocktails ready to throw over a car,''...."They are people who really want to make a difference in the world. Singapore has this unfounded fear, which is very unfortunate.''

Now, contrast what Krawitz said with that of Viki Esther Chang, founder of the local environmental NGO, Climate Change Organisation. Chang was quoted in a report by TODAY as saying "Being a civil society, we are not some gangsters in the streets protesting. I don't think stripping in front of a fast food restaurant will make people listen to you. Why should we go for shock value when there are civil ways of doing things?"

Maybe Chang has hugged one too many trees. Either that or she didn't realise that she has painted EVERYBODY who protests/demonstrates in the streets as gangsters. She's just repeating the same old mantra put out by the PAP government and amplified & repeated day in and day out by the local media: ALL protests/demonstrations are violent & ALL demonstrators/protesters are rowdy and crazy.

The PAP government could have allowed ALL accredited members of civil society organisations to come to Singapore; they could have allowed outdoor protests; authorities could have worked with organisers of these protests so that everything goes off smoothly & peacefully BUT apply the law on those who do turn rowdy and violent.

The PAP government could have but they didn't. Instead, what they have done through their actions is to expose themselves and all their cheap & dirty tricks that lie beneath the surface. Hats off to them! :-))

Oh by the way, Krawitz staged the first "caged protest" at Suntec.

World Bank's Wolfowitz Says Singapore Backtracked on Agreement

By Chan Sue Ling

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said Singapore may have backtracked on an agreement to let all accredited members of civil society groups attend meetings of the bank and the International Monetary Fund in the city-state.

Singapore police on Sept. 11 told the World Bank and IMF it objected to 28 of the more than 700 civil society representatives from 68 countries who have been accredited for this week's event because of their involvement in riots at other international summits. Singapore earlier agreed to let all accredited representatives attend the meetings, according to the World Bank.

"This is an important lesson to be learned about planning in the future,'' Wolfowitz said at a briefing for civil society groups in Singapore today. "The most unfortunate thing is what appears to be going back on an explicit agreement. The delegates in question were accredited. So far, there has been no satisfactory explanation.''

Singapore, which forbids the public outdoor assembly of more than four people without a permit, wants to avoid the violent protests that marred previous trade and finance summits in Hong Kong last year and in Seattle in 1999. The city-state has put its reputation "on the line'' to stage a successful meeting.

The government will issue a statement later today, K. Bhavani, a spokeswoman, said.

Indoor protests are allowed with a permit from the police and a 538-square-foot area, about the size of a squash court, has been sealed off for civil society representatives to protest. The space, in the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, where the IMF and World Bank meetings are being held, isn't visible from the main entrance.

Outdoor Protests

The World Bank has said the city-state should allow accredited civil society representatives to hold outdoor protests during the event.

Both the World Bank and IMF said they wanted discussions and dialogue from the civil society groups because they provided valuable feedback on policies and help chart future programs.

A Web cast is being arranged for tomorrow's so-called town- hall meeting, during which IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato and Wolfowitz will speak, to include those who have been turned away from Singapore.

Both are still holding discussions with the Singapore government on the entry of the activists.

The decision to turn away some representatives happened at the last minute, Kevin Kellems, acting vice president for external affairs, communications and United Nations affairs for the World Bank, and Masood Ahmed, director of external relations for the IMF, said at the briefing today. The police said the objections were made because the 28 individuals posed a security and law-and-order threat to the event.

"Insufficient Clarity"

"Words like security, words like undesirable, words like troublemaker are sort of general characterizations but never have I seen a consistent or coherent explanation,'' Kellems said, referring to the Singapore police's description of the 28 people. "There's insufficient clarity.''

The city-state has said it will deploy at least 10,000 personnel to prevent terrorist attacks and illegal protests at the meetings, which have drawn at least 15,976 visitors, more than previous overseas meetings by the two institutions held in Prague and Dubai.

"Throughout Asia and Australia and New Zealand, we were extremely unimpressed by the approach of the Singaporean government to engaging with civil society groups", said Paul O'Callaghan, executive director of Australian Council for International Development. "At the last minute, a whole group of people have been refused entry to the country without any explanation.''

"Unfounded Fear"

The Australian Council for International Development has made several attempts to come to an agreement with the government since March, through letters to the Singapore government and the Ministry of Finance, O'Callaghan said.

The "people who come here are very well educated and they are not wild-eyed activists with Molotov cocktails ready to throw over a car,'' said Sandy Krawitz from South Africa-based Action Aid International, which is boycotting the official meetings. "They are people who really want to make a difference in the world. Singapore has this unfounded fear, which is very unfortunate.''

Other groups are holding meetings on the Indonesian island of Batam, about 40 minutes by ferry from Singapore. About 700 other activists from more than 70 civil society organizations worldwide are expected to gather in Batam.

No comments: