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2006-09-14

Singapore Bars Activists From Entering Country During IMF-World Bank Meetings

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Singapore has barred twenty-eight activists from entering the country during the annual International Monetary Fund–World Bank meetings which began on Wednesday. In addition Singapore has cracked down on all protests this week–demonstrations have been banned throughout the country except for one area measuring twenty-six by twenty-six feet. We speak to Focus on the Global South’s Walden Bello — one of the 28 activists banned from Singapore–and Jubilee South’s Lidy Nacpil. [includes rush transcript]

The government of Singapore has barred twenty-eight activists from entering the country during the annual International Monetary Fund–World Bank meetings which began on Wednesday. In addition Singapore has cracked down on all protests this week — demonstrations have been banned throughout the country except for one area measuring twenty-six by twenty-six feet. Police have also barred access to a network of roads around the convention center where the meetings are being held. Singapore’s crackdown on protests has been widely criticized. This is Wilson Fortaleza of the Freedom From Debt Coalition:

Officials in Indonesia have also barred protests connected to the IMF/World Bank meeting. The group Jubilee South had planned to hold a demonstration on Batam Island, which is less than an hour by boat from Singapore.

We go to Indonesia to speak with two guests:

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Wilson Fortaleza of the Freedom From Debt Coalition.

WILSON FORTALEZA: Of course, every sovereign state have their own right to make their own judgment, to make their own policies about public assemblies. But how about the universal right of every people — the right to assemble, the right to express their own grievances?

AMY GOODMAN: Officials in Indonesia have also barred protest connected to the IMF/World Bank meeting. The group Jubilee South had planned to hold a demonstration on Batam Island, which is less than an hour by boat from Singapore. On Wednesday, Jubilee South’s Lidy Nacpil criticized Indonesia’s decision.

LIDY NACPIL: We are very disappointed and angry with the Indonesian government for succumbing to the pressure. We’re very angry over the fact that the Singapore government is even trying to extend its policies outside of Singapore. And in fact, we should also castigate the World Bank and the IMF for having chosen Singapore as site in the first place.

AMY GOODMAN: Lidy Nacpil of Jubilee South joins us now on the phone from Batam Island, Indonesia. We welcome you to Democracy Now! Can you explain what’s happening?

LIDY NACPIL: Well, we’re now here in Batam, as you said. We’re holding the International Peoples’ Forum against the IMF and World Bank. This is a convergence of various activities and events, which originally would have included demonstrations on the streets, a public concert outdoors. But our permit to hold the event here, after much pressure from Singapore, at first wasn’t being given. And then finally when they gave us the permit, they said that it comes with several restrictions, including that we cannot hold anything out-of-doors. So we’re here just stuck within the perimeter, the fence of the Asram Haji center. And as we speak now, we’ve had already growing a number of participants who have been denied entry or have been detained at the Singapore airport for several hours and have even been refused the right to even make a single phone call to notify their friends or their family what has happened to them.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on the telephone by Walden Bello, the executive director of Focus on the Global South, one of the 28 activists banned from Singapore. Walden Bello, can you tell us how you learned you were banned and what you were planning to do in Singapore?

WALDEN BELLO: Yes. Yes, Amy. Yes. Well, I learned about my being banned from the Singapore Straight Times article that came out on Saturday. And they said that the Bank had — I mean that the Singapore government had identified me as one of the people to be banned and our organization Focus on the Global South, and that they mentioned two things: that I had been responsible for taking documents out of the Bank way back in the 1980s, and then they also mentioned that I led a takeover of the Philippine consulate in 1978. But, you know, these were obviously, you know, sort of stuff that they were just putting up in order to try to justify my coming into Singapore.

So, I, you know — what we were planning in Singapore was to have a seminar on ways of phasing out the International Monetary Fund that would include academics, activists, experts on the Fund. You know, basically, you know, how do we create a new system of global economic governance that would not have, you know, the same kind of very negative effects as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. So that was what the Focus was in engaging in setting up this conference in Singapore for that. And, you know — so that was what we were intending to do there.

AMY GOODMAN: Lidy Nacpil in Batam Island, Indonesia, can you talk about the connection between what Indonesia is doing and Singapore and how large the list really is? We’ve said 28 people are banned.

LIDY NACPIL: Well, yeah. It’s actually more like 28 that we know of. We think with the pattern of events confirms what we have been thinking all along, that 28 is just a small number of a big, long list. And it’s 28 people that the World Bank has been notified about, because these 28 people have been accredited to the process and accredited early in the process. A contact in the Bank said, well, actually they think that there will be more people that might be banned from entering, because some of the names have not been vetted by the Singapore government yet. And then there’s a whole lot of other people who have not applied for accreditation to the Bank who are coming to Batam Island via Singapore to participate at the IPF, and there are many of them now that have either been banned outright, refused entry and deported back, as well as those who have gone through different forms of interrogation and detention at the site itself. A number of our participants have actually made last-minute changes to their travel plans so that they avoid Singapore, because of these deportations that have already taken place.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us. Lidy Nacpil, International Coordinator of Jubilee South and Walden Bello, Executive Director of Focus on the Global South. The WTO and IMF say they’re calling on Singapore to allow in the banned people, but many critics say they regularly hold meetings in these types of restrictive places so that the protests will be controlled.

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