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Singapore police mull alternatives sites for World Bank protests

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Wednesday August 23, 2006

Singapore- Singapore police are looking into a World Bank suggestion to allow peaceful protests by accredited groups during a joint meetings with the International Monetary Fund next month, officials said on Wednesday. Any alternative that could be adopted must be within the framework of the laws and must not compromise security, the foremost priority, police said in a statement.

Peter Stephens, the World Bank's Singapore representative, urged the authorities to allow outdoor protest after the city-state said it would only permit demonstrations at a designated indoor arena.

"The bank's preference for these meetings and all others has been to seek space for civil society to protest peacefully outside," Stephens said in a statement. "That remains our preferred position."

Police said they will examine the practicality of allowing protests at sites suggested by the World Bank, but are unable to waive the current rules prohibiting indoor demonstrations.

They have set aside an area in the lobby of Suntec Singapore - the downtown venue for the World Bank and IMF meetings expected to be attended by 16,000 international delegates from more than 180 countries from September 12-20.

The World Bank said this year's meetings are expected to attract the largest number of civil society organizations (CSOs) ever. They include non-governmental organizations, religious groups, labour unions, and research centres from more than 45 countries.

Nearly 200 CSOs have been accredited and another 200 are seeking approval.

An opposition politician said he plans to lead a protest march during the event.

Chee Soon Juan, the secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party, said the aims are to draw attention to the denial of democracy in Singapore and the plight of the poor.

The city-state prohibits the public assembly of more than four people without police permits. Such rules help maintain peace and harmony, the government maintains.

While Singapore views the meetings as an opportunity to showcase the city, critics such as Amnesty International cite the restrictions on freedom of expression.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur