Saturday, September 09, 2006

IMF/World Bank Meeting in Singapore (14-20 Sep 2006)

Some news closer to home.

1) KFC Activists barred from Singapore
2) Ban on Protests will affect Singapore's Image
3) IMF / WB Rebuke Singapore
4) Singapore, Unused to Protests, Girds for World Bank meetings
5) Official Request from IMF/World Bank to Permit CSOs

So the Singapore government has decided that it will not be a repeat of what happened in Hong Kong during the most recent IMF/WB meetings when it hosted the delegates. To cut the long story short, Singapore did the expected: Ban protests. Ban activists from entering the country. Ban everything that can be banned. What does that tell you? The interesting thing is that even IMF/World Bank have specifically requested that 'accredited protestors' must be allowed. So the authorities decided to put all of the protestors in a room instead to do their 'protest.' How effective then will be a matter of how well the press is covering them. Note this words from the IMF/WB themselves: "We have consistently opposed any restrictions on full participation and peaceful expression of views. Open dialogue with civil society is also important for the effective operation of our institutions."

Are the local authorities only capable to settling issues by banning? While some may trumpet the city state as a safe and secure place to do business, the banning activities tell us something else. The security framework Singapore has does not know how to deal with the protests (even though it is safe). They might have the text-book knowhow on how to deal with different political expressions. But their experience in dealing with them are sorely lacking. To put it crudely, one might even think that the security forces are in some ways domesticated.

So have a good meeting. Suppress other expressions of protests and movement in the name of 'safety and security.' A sanitized environment will be good. Totally clean, and the best place to be safe in this world will only be Singapore. Outside sanitized Singapore, can the citizens fare as well? I am no friend of violence. Neither I am supportive of blatant suppression of legitimate expression. While showing the world how good and safe the country is, are the actions also telling the world how intolerant the country is? Yes, 'intolerant of violence' you may say. Have one ever wondered that the reason for violence is usually the inability to manage them? I think the opportunity to show the world how to conduct peaceful protests would have been lost. Singapore would have gained greater credibility if they have succeeded in allowing peaceful protests. By banning, I guess it only shows the draconian aspect.

Lest we forget, the protests are not against Singapore or any of its interest. The protests arises out of a genuine concern on the impact of IMF/World Bank policies. They have world implications for the poor countries, for the economically disadvantaged places. While violence from a few is terrible, the majority of protestors are not violent. They just want to make their point heard, which is not helped in a controlled Singapore media environment.

what about the silent injustice that is happening around the world due to policies from rich nations? Maybe, if possible, someone can ban such injustice. If only life is that simple....

Sometimes I wonder, our heavenly Father looking down on us. If He is a 'banning' God, then many of us will not be here today.

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