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World Bank, IMF urge Singapore to allow all accredited activists to attend annual meetings

Associated Press

September 8, 2006

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund on Friday urged Singapore to allow all activists invited by the finance institutions to attend this month's meetings in the city-state.

The Singapore government has informed the World Bank and IMF that it objects to the accreditation of several civil society representatives, and stated its intention to prevent them from attending the Sept. 11-20 meetings, the two institutions said in a joint statement.

The statement did not identify the individuals, nor say how many Singapore wanted to bar from the meetings.

The Southeast Asian country should allow all properly accredited civil society representatives to attend the meetings in the interest of transparency, good governance and accountability, the statement said.

"These individuals have been cleared to attend the Annual Meetings by their respective governments and we have accredited them according to our standard procedure," the statement said. "We strongly urge the Singapore government to act swiftly and reverse their decision on entry and access to the Meetings for these representatives."

The World Bank and IMF said they have accredited nearly 500 representatives of civil society groups from more than 45 countries.

Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry did not immediately respond when contacted for comment.

Law enforcement officials have previously said individuals or groups whose past behavior showed they were "liable to cause disruption or pose a security threat" could be denied access to the country ahead of the meetings.

Donatus Marut, executive director of the Indonesian NGO Forum on Indonesian Development, or Infid, a Jakarta-based group, said Friday he was informed by the World Bank and IMF that Singapore doesn't want him to attend the meetings even though he is accredited.

Marut said Singaporean authorities said in a letter forwarded by the two financial institutions that the host government was revoking its approval of his entry into the island.

"I am very disappointed to know that Singapore has disallowed me from attending the meetings. These annual meetings are important for civil society groups representing developing countries to debate the policies of the World Bank and IMF, and suggest alternatives," Marut said Friday in a telephone interview.

Marut said the letter did not give a reason for the decision, but that it was likely related to his involvement in organizing a protest and forum on IMF and World Bank issues on the Indonesian island of Batam, a 30-minute ferry ride from Singapore.

He said Indonesian authorities informed him this week that they would not allow the Sept 15-18 forum and demonstration with an anticipated 1,000 activists to go ahead. Marut said the event had been organized in Batam instead of Singapore because the city-state had said it was strictly barring outdoor rallies.

Singapore has banned outdoor demonstrations during the IMF and World Bank meeting because they could lead to violence and damage to property. Indoor protests will be confined to the indoor lobby of the convention center, with access limited to local and foreign organizations accredited by the IMF and World Bank.

The city-state is mobilizing its entire police force and its reserve police national service to provide 24-hour security for the meetings, which are expected to gather 16,000 delegates and visitors.

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