Friday, September 22, 2006

After Thoughts

It's been a most eventful meeting, I am glad we have managed to push forth many of our plans despite all the difficulties thrown our way. Many thanks to all and their hardwork.

Now with the farce of a meeting over in Singapore, we should focus our efforts on the meetings next spring. Wolfowitz’ public eleventh hour attempt to urge the authorities to give entry to us was simply baffling since he could have pulled the meetings out of Singapore easily had he intended to. This is a weak point in the WB which we can exploit and hopefully gain some leverage out of.

While I understand that some of us are focussing on taking the singapore Government to task, I fear that putting our limited resources on these actions will not have any direct benefits to our organisations. Using our valuable resources to target the WB specifically is in my humble opinion a more worthwhile venture as we can guarantee some good out of.

I am not absolving the Singapore government of blame nor slighting our friends who faced difficulties with the Singapore authorities, but in the long run, we should concentrate on the WB and its unequal policies. And we have an opportunity now and we should focus in to exploit this rather than pursue different agendas.

One lesson learnt is that most parts of Asia are still rather conservative. Our hope for a protest close to Singapore was also swiftly rejected by the Batam authorities. Hence this 2006, we lost our voice.

Another point to note is that approval from our respective embassies and accreditation from the WB is not good enough to gain entry to any country which is bent on flexing her muscles. We should seek to make WB accountable for our accreditation and if it guarantees entry into the country.

It’s not over yet. Here’s to a fruitful 2007.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Another Farce of a IMF / WB Meeting

Critics Denounce IMF "Vote Fiddling"
Meaningless Realignment Will Not Restore Damaged Credibility

Civil society critics reacted to news that the IMF had board had approved minor changes in its voting allocations with criticism and indifference. The measure, approved by 90.6% of IMF voting shares, was touted by the IMF as way for middle income countries to play a greater role in decisions.

"The power of the U.S. and other G7 countries on the board is entrenched, and the `consensus decision-making' process is manipulated to quell any dissent before it can even be articulated," said Sameer Dossani of 50 Years Is Enough: U.S. Network for Global Economic Justice. "Giving China or Turkey an extra percentage point will not contribute to changing IMF policy, and it will not empower developing countries."

The U.S. controls over 15% of the votes at the IMF board, giving it effective veto power over major decisions, which require approval by 85% of the board. Its share is unaffected by the reform announced today.

Sub-Saharan Africa, the region where the IMF is most active in designing and imposing economic policies, will lose out significantly. Its 45 countries are represented by just two board members, and together they control less than 5% of the vote. After the reform, their share will be reduced to about 2.1%. Pledges to address this loss through an increase of "basic votes" have yet to be fulfilled.

The disparity in voting shares was underlined by the fact that the 23 countries that opposed the measure controlled only 9.4% of the votes.

"This is no victory for developing countries," said Jenina Joy Chavez of Focus on the Global South. "It is a psychological boost for four countries, but more than anything a confirmation that the more a country is affected by the IMF's policies, the less voice it will have in determining them."

The IMFC also continued the effort started at its last meeting (April 2006) to add a new role to the IMF's agenda. Like the slight shift in voting percentages, it is a reaction to the IMF's widely-perceived credibility crisis, fostered by early repayments of loans by several large countries, which have claimed financial independence of the IMF as a result.

"The IMF wants us to see it as a re-made institution, one that is useful to the world," said Soren Ambrose of Solidarity Africa Network. "But the vagueness of this new role confirms that the effort is more about public relations – window-dressing to preserve the IMF's power and flexibility. No serious observer of the IMF will accept that it has changed its nature because it might host some meetings. It remains a rule-maker and enforcer for developing countries, but one that is rapidly losing both its credibility and relevance. Rather than devise vague new identities, the institution should be allowed to die a natural death."

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Press Statement of IPF vs IMF-WB

Press Statement by the Organisers of the International Peoples Forum vs IMF-WB

Asrama Haji Batam Centre, Batam, Indonesia


18 September 2006

International People's Forum organizers celebrate successful forum and share plans for ways forward

Today we conclude the International Peoples Forum vs. the IMF and World Bank (IPF), which was convened in Batam from September 15th to17th. Over 500 Indonesians participated in the Forum as did around 200 individuals from 25 countries representing at least 100 organisations.

The IPF, like other similar fora, has successfully demonstrated to the world that many diverse civil society organisations and social movements can meet in peace and unity, and have meaningful, in-depth and informed discussions on the policies and practices of International Financial Institutions (IFIs). Despite the many hindrances suffered by IPF convenors and participants in organising and traveling to the Forum, we met in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation to share information, insights and strategies on critical issues facing communities and peoples affected by World Bank and IMF operations.

We find the World Bank and IMF responsible for policies and actions that lead to the intensification of poverty and deprivation, the violation of basic human rights, the curtailment of basic political and civil liberties, the undermining of national sovereignty and democratic governance, and the subversion of the right to development.

We call attention to the numerous obstacles we faced in preparing the Forum which, among other things, forced us to cancel outdoor events and caused at least 100 international individuals to forfeit their participation. Our reports indicate that at least 54 individuals from 17 organisations were either banned from entering Singapore, detained at the Singapore airport without explanation, subjected to custodial interrogation and, regrettably, some were even deported. Furthermore, many continue to face problems entering Singapore as they travel home. We have yet to receive any explanation from either the Singapore government or the World Bank and IMF on why this has happened.

We take the World Bank and IMF to task on not meeting its promises to engage respectfully and openly with civil society organisations. The credibility of these promises has been seriously damaged ever since the World Bank and IMF were made aware of the restrictions Singapore would place on the freedom of assembly for civil society during the Annual Meetings. After it became clear to us that Singapore would not allow the Forum to take place within its borders, we moved the IPF to Batam , Indonesia. We pledge solidarity with those committed to building a vibrant civil society in states that restrict essential rights such as the freedom of speech and we appreciate the Indonesian Government for allowing us to host the Forum in Batam.

In response to the banning and mistreatment of our colleagues, we launched a boycott of official engagement between the World Bank and IMF and civil society at the Annual Meetings. After individuals were 'un-banned,' we re-affirmed the boycott and labeled the actions of the Singapore Government as 'too little too late'. Each and every participating organisation will now and in the future critically re-examine its relationship vis-à-vis the World Bank and IMF and our future engagements, while not losing our focus on holding these institutions accountable for negative impacts associated with their operations.

As a result of our analyses on the World Bank and IMF and drawing on our experiences in the last weeks, we make the following demands.

First, on the policies and practices of the World Bank and IMF, we re-invigorate The Global Call to Action Against the IFIs. In particular, we stress the urgent need for:

· 100 percent cancellation of multilateral debt;

· open, transparent and participatory external audits of IFI lending and policies;

· stopping the imposition of policy conditions that undermine economic sovereignty and exacerbate crises in health and education;

· discontinuing the privatization of public services; and

· ending IFI involvement in environmentally destructive projects.

Second, in response to the restrictions placed on the IPF initiative:

· We demand from the World Bank and IMF an explanation as to why they proceeded with Singapore as the venue of the Annual Meetings when restrictions on civil society engagement were evident months in advance.

· We demand the full disclosure of all information pertaining to civil society participation including the Memorandum of Understanding between the World Bank and Government of Singapore and official and un-official lists of so-called 'banned individuals'.

Third, to ensure that there is full accountability and transparency of the IFIs to peoples and communities that are affected by IFI operations:

· We call on the governments that are members of the World Bank and IMF Boards of Directors to keep these institutions fully accountable for their impacts on human rights, equity, and the sustainability of development.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006



IPF vs the IMF / WorldBank
The International Peoples Forum starts officially on 15 September, at 8:30 am

The official IPF website:
The official venue: Asrama Hajji Center
JL Engku Putri Batam Centre
Proponsi Kepulauan Riav
Batam Island, Indonesia

Registration for the IPF opens on 14 September, from 10am to 7pm at the Arafah Building at Asrama Hajji Center. Registration is USD20 for all non Indonesian participants to help cover the costs for venue, meeting halls and other Forum expenses.

The International Peoples Forum officially starts on 15 September, at 8:30 am

Claiming Our Right to Know
Launch of the
Transparency Charter for International Financial Institutions

International People’s Forum vs the IMF and the World Bank

8:30 am - 10:30 am, 17 September 2006

Batam Indonesia

The right to access information held by public bodies, including inter-governmental organisations like the IFIs, is a fundamental human right. It is grounded in the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas” as guaranteed under international law. In the context of development, transparency can help reduce corruption; avoid damage to communities and sensitive ecosystems; and identify potential social, environmental and economic benefits in the implementation of IFI-led activities.

Yet, the IFIs remain highly secretive. Their systems treat disclosure as a limited set of procedural requirements, providing only the information they choose and keeping everything else confidential, with or without legitimate reason. Notwithstanding the number of documents available on their websites, the IFI boards of directors operate behind closed doors, information is generally available only after relevant decisions have been taken, and many IFIs do not report on how their investments help reduce poverty.

The Global Transparency Initiative, a network of organisations committed to greater openness at the IFIs, calls on the IFIs to fundamentally transform their disclosure practices. The GTI believes in a rights-based approach with a genuine presumption of disclosure, generous automatic disclosure rules, limited exceptions, and a right to appeal denials of access to an independent body.

The Transparency Charter for International Financial Institutions – a set of principles outlining the openness standards for IFIs – will be launched in Batam, Indonesia and Singapore in September 2006.

Joining the launch in Batam and Sinagpore are right to information advocates who will share their thoughts and experiences on access to information from the IFIs:

Suchi Pande will speak on the importance of access to information in international institutions. Suchi is an activist of the right to information movement in India. She is a member of Parivartan and the Right to Water Campaign in New Delhi. Parivartan has effectively used the right to information law in India to empower ordinary citizens in their fight against corruption and for better delivery of public services. It has also used this law to bring to light World Bank interference in the bidding process for consultants for the water sector in Delhi.

Hemantha Withanage will discuss his experience accessing information from IFIs. Hemantha is the Executive Director of the Manila-based NGO Forum on the ADB - an Asian-led network of non-government and community-based organizations. Prior to joining the Forum, Hemantha was the Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice and the Convenor of the Sri Lankan Working group on Trade and IFIs. Hemantha has a background in biological science and has vast experience teaching and working at the government and non-government levels through South Asia.

Toby Mendel will present the International Transparency Charter for IFIs.
is Law Programme Director at Article 19, an international human rights organization which promotes freedom of expression and information globally. He has worked extensively on media and access to information issues around the world, advising governments and local NGOs, including on drafting laws, running training seminars, critiquing laws and taking cases to both national and international bodies. He has also published widely on these issues.

Jennifer Kalafut will present an Assessment of World Bank Openness. Jennifer
is a Senior Policy Associate at the Bank Information Center, a non-governmental organization that advocates for the protection of rights, transparency, and public accountability in the governance and operations of multilateral development banks and the IMF. Jennifer coordinates the transparency project at BIC and has spent several years living and working in Central and Eastern Europe on sustainable development issues.

Nepomuceno Malaluan to moderate. Nepo is Trustee at the Action for Economic Reforms and Co-Convenor of the Access to Information Network (ATIN) in the Philippines. ATIN is at the forefront of the right to information campaign in the Philippines, and is now also engaging the issue of access to information in international financial institutions.

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Since Singapore Has Softened...

Considering Singapore can be pushed to allowing 22 of the activists into the country. Isn't it time for them and IMF / WB to review the protest site allocated for activists?

The current site is a sad spot 15m away from where the delegates will be passing through to their meetings.

As a show of their sincerity in welcoming the activists, we should now urge IMF / WB and Singapore to change the protest site to one where the attention of the delegates can be easily sought.


Singapore Protest Poser

It's a three-way fight at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings.

In one corner sit the suits of IMF and World Bank. In the other are the representatives of the civil society organisations (CSO). Without suits, of course.

Smack in the middle is Singapore.

The World Bank/IMF and CSOs may not be natural enemies, but they're not the best of friends either.

While the World Bank and IMF may be saying free trade (open your markets), the CSOs are shouting fair trade (protect our markets).

But they agree on one point - the right of entry for 27 activists.

The CSOs want them here. The IMF and World Bank are making a show that they don't think the 27 should be disallowed entry.

And as of last night, 22 of the 27 will be allowed to attend the meeting after all, said Singapore 2006, the organising committee.

What has that got to do with you then?

In this clash, Singapore seems to have taken the sucker punch. It has been singled out by the World Bank president, Mr Paul Wolfowitz.

He blames the Republic, saying it's reneging on promises made in a signed agreement.

Singapore 2006 says the Republic is carrying out its duty - to protect life and property.

All well and good, said the CSOs. But what's the solution?

Yesterday, about 30 representatives of The Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), an anti-poverty movement, staged a silent protest at the designated site.

They then rushed for a meeting with the World Bank and IMF. The first thing the World Bank wanted discussed - those 27 activists.

Once again, Mr Wolfowitz let fly at the Republic. His tone was palpable - don't blame me, blame Singapore.

Why pick Singapore as the site for the meeting then, the CSO representative asked.

Mr Wolfowitz's answer - he has been with the World Bank only for three years. The decision was made earlier.

Unhappy with his answer, the CSOs staged a walkout.

Ms Sandy Krawitz, communications manager for ActionAid International, a CSO, said: 'We're walking out because he's just shifting blame. Yes, he wasn't there three years ago because he was war-mongering in Iraq.

'But he has had three years to change the venue if he was interested. He's just paying us lip service.'

The CSOs' anger appear to be directed at the IMF and World Bank, and also at the Republic.

Said Ms Krawitz: 'We want a full apology from the World Bank, the IMF and then Singapore.'

One major issue has been the lack of opportunity for the CSOs to stage outdoor protests.

But the choice of location for the indoor site has also intrigued the CSOs.

Mr Luke Fletcher of Jubilee Australia (which looks into debt relief) said he heard about the change in protest sites.

The protesters would have been at the foot of the escalators at the Suntec Singapore convention lobby. That would have put them within touching distance of the bigwigs.

Picture the scene, said a CSO representative.

They could heckle the main delegates as they walk past to the escalators to get to the meetings.

Instead, the site turned out to be about 15m away, tucked behind a wall and away from the escalator.

All the CSOs get now is a fish-tank view of other delegates - not the central bank heads - as they clear security in a walled-up temporary office.

But this isn't the first time the CSOs have been given an indoor site because of local laws. In Dubai, in 2003, an air-conditioned tent was set up for protesters.

It was reported that only one man used it.

So some CSOs have decided to boycott the meetings in a show of solidarity.

But not all are happy with the boycott.

Mr Eric Gutierrez, 40, from ActionAid International said: 'We've spent more than a year preparing research reports to be presented at these meetings.

'With the boycott, our efforts will go to waste....'

Must there be a protest to get their point across?

Mr Gutierrez said: 'They (IMF and World Bank) see your evidence and they nod, but the next day, they forget all about it.

'So you have to try to speak louder or be more creative by having a protest.'

It doesn't always work.

In the 2000 meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, the police unleashed tear gas on protesters who swarmed the venue.

The meetings ended early.

More than 500 activists were accredited by the IMF-WB for this meeting.

Those The New Paper spoke to said they are not 'petty thugs' but academics with a different point of view.

Many of those who said a protest isn't always necessary declined to be named. It's not good to break solidarity.

Mr Gutierrez said: 'You can break it down to different conditions in different countries.

'In some countries, you can be heard better because you can have demonstrations.

'In other countries, it might be better to go to a room to have a face-to-face discussion.'

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Singapore Softens Stance on IMF Activists

It's been an ugly week. Singapore deported activists. IMF accuses Singapore of breaking agreement. IMF says Singapore's reputation is adversely affected. IMF is doing all the blaming while Singapore up its authoritarian stance. Why did IMF still agree to let Singapore host the meetings when the country already has such a history?

Another reason why IMF / WB is bad for us. They blame everyone else but themselves.


Singapore has announced it will allow the entry of 22 out of 27 activists who had been banned from the country ahead of the IMF meeting next week.

The move follows criticism from World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, who described Singapore's restrictions on activists as "authoritarian".

He said the decision to ban accredited activists ahead of the 19 September meeting violated a previous agreement.

The issue had led to growing tension between the two sides.

Both the World Bank and the IMF had argued the presence of pressure groups was key to improving the work of financial institutions.

But Singapore said the ban was because the 27 activists had taken part in disruptive protests in other nations and posed a threat to law and order.

Officials said that the decision to allow in the 22 activists had been made after input from the World Bank and the IMF.

But five members of the group still faced restrictions. If they tried to enter Singapore, they "would be subject to interview and may not be allowed in", a statement from the organising committee said.


Earlier in the day, Mr Wolfowitz said Singapore's stance on the issue had harmed its image.

"Enormous damage has been done and a lot of that damage is done to Singapore and self-inflicted," he told a meeting in Singapore.

"I would argue whether it has to be as authoritarian as it has been," he said, adding that he had raised the issue with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore had banned public protests for the duration of the IMF and World Bank meetings amid concerns they could lead to violence and damage to property.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Forum Hotels for IPF In Batam Island

Click on the map for an enlarged view

Those of you who need to arrange for accomodation at the Asrama Hajji Center itself, drop us a mail at globalisenot 'AT' The rates start from USD 12.

Hotels near the forum area are:
Hotel Windsor Square, 12 Winsor Square from USD 12
Hotel Royal Batam, Jl Raden Patah 12 from USD 35

Monday, September 11, 2006

Singapore DEPORTS PETA Activists

Singapore has demonstrated her stance against protestors. The 3 PETA protestors were arrested before they even began to protest. Such is the rigidness of the country.

The question is, would they cane activists as promised?


Singapore deported three animal rights advocates who planned to stage a semi-naked protest outside a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlet in the city-state, authorities and the activists said.

The trio from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, planned a demonstration Friday in which two women were to stand outside a local KFC restaurant, each wearing nothing but a banner reading "Naked Truth: KFC Tortures Chicks," the group said in a statement.

The two women were PETA members Ashley Fruno of Canada and Sonia Astudillo of the Philippines, while the third member was the group's Asia-Pacific director Jason Baker, an American citizen based in Hong Kong, the statement said.

PETA said the protest was canceled.

The group staged a similar protest outside a KFC restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand, last month.

Singapore police said in a statement they deployed officers to find and interview the activists on Thursday and Friday in response to calls reporting that the trio had been "behaving suspiciously." The statement did not give details of what the activists were doing nor identify the callers.

"Based on their profile and records, police assessed that they would be participating in an anti-KFC campaign as PETA activists and will speak without a permit," the police statement said late Friday.

Police said the three were asked to leave the city-state by Friday, and that Singapore's immigration authorities had canceled their social visit passes.

Singapore has been tightening security measures ahead of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on September 19 to 20.

Singapore says it will strictly bar outdoor demonstrations, which even under normal circumstances are rarely seen in the city-state because of tight restrictions on expression.

Its leaders say such controls have helped turn the tiny resource-poor island into one of Asia's economic powerhouses.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

IMF / WorldBank Rebukes Host Country, Singapore

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank on Friday issued an unprecedented rebuke to Singapore over a ban on accredited activists invited to attend the annual meetings of the two financial institutions next week.

The IMF/World Bank suggested that Singapore had violated the terms of its agreement to host the event by blocking the entry of 19 civil society representatives, who allegedly posed a security threat.

"Singapore had promised to faciliate the entry of accredited representatives under the memorandum of understanding with us," a World Bank official said. The IMF/World Bank was only informed this week of Singapore's plans.

The crackdown is part of tough security measures that Singapore will implement during the September 11-20 meetings. The government will also ban all outdoor demonstrations and has warned it will shoot at violent protesters, citing the threat of terrorist attacks.

The incident represents a setback to the IMF/World Bank, which has sought to improve relations with non-governmental organisations that have accused them of conducting policies that have ignored the plight of the world's poor. A record 500 NGO representatives are accredited to attend this year's meeting.

"This is a major blow to the credibility of the IMF/World Bank. It's terribly embarrassing since the World Bank had adopted good goverance as the theme of this year's meeting," said Antonio Tricarrio with Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale, who was one of those banned.

Mr Tricarrio said he was "astounded" at Singapore's decision since his group was a widely-respected organisation that had never been associated with violent activities.

Some NGOs alleged that the IMF/World Bank, which holds its annual meetings outside Washington every three years, had selected Singapore as the venue for this year's meeting because of its authoritarian reputation. Previous IMF/World Bank meetings have been marred by violent protests.

Among those banned by Singapore were representatives from the UK-based World Development Movement, Thailand's Focus on the Global South, the Freedom from Debt Coalition in the Philippines and the Forum on Indonesian Development (Infid).

The IMF/World Bank 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."

"We strongly urge the Singapore government to act swiftly and reverse their decision on entry and access to the meetings for these representatives," the IMF/World Bank said in a joint statement.

The Singapore police force said this week that it had compiled a list of potential "troublemakers" who would be denied entry to the city-state. “Every country reserves the right to determine whether a foreigner would be eligible for entry into the country,” said the Singapore police on Friday.

Some NGOs had planned to hold rallies on the neighbouring Indonesian island of Batam because of the security measures in Singapore. But they were told this week by the local police that the protest would be banned because foreign groups were involved in violation of the law.

The chief of Indonesia’s national police, Sutanto, told reporters that NGOs would not be allowed to hold protests on Batam, although authorities would let them meet. “Seminars are welcome,” he said. “But there should be no political agenda, let alone rallies, because this could make foreigners think Indonesia is not safe for investment.”


All this is just an elaborate stage is it not? The IMF / WB have blamed Singapore for banning all protests. They say Singapore has soured the relationship between the civil liberties and the IMF / WorldBank. Perhaps IMF / WorldBank have not expected this from Singapore. They really want a reception. Or maybe IMF / WorldBank did not want a reception due to the response last year at Hong Kong where groups of peaceful protestors were detained which resulted in 3 South Koreans being charged in court.

While IMF / WorldBank is starting to look like bad guests in Singapore, Singapore is also a bad host to all protestors. Caning, the brutal physical punishment is still meted out in Singapore even in this century. The authorities there have made it clear that they would not hesitate to cane protestors.

In Batam Island, even though the police have refused license to protest, the convenors are still working hard.

There seems to be zilch human rights in Singapore and Batam Island.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Activists Urged To Be More Creative

Foreign activists wondering if anyone will hear their pleas amid the restrictions imposed by the Singapore government during the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) are being urged to "come and be creative." Although members of civil society groups have been threatened with arrests and worse should they dare to gather anywhere beyond the designated indoor area at the Suntec City venue, advisers are confident the anti-globalization and other causes can still be heard in both the city-state and on the Indonesian island of Batam.

The world's top bankers and finance ministers are among the 16,000 delegates descending on Singapore from September 11-20. Outdoor protests that normally accompany such high-profile events have been banned to prevent a deterioration into violence or a terrorist attack.

"It's not hopeless," said Roderick Chia, head of information at the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development. "It's an opportunity for civil society groups to come and be creative."

To attract the attention of delegates to the area of the lobby reserved for them, Chia suggested skits and forums. "Putting on plays centering on themes they want to highlight could be very effective. They have been in other situations."

New and alternative ways of presenting long-standing laments will enable delegates to see the civil society group members as "polite and diplomatic," he added.

Police used tear gas at the 2005 World Trade Organization conference in Hong Kong and arrested more than 1,000 people. Nearly 600 were injured during IMF meetings in Prague in 2000 after protestors hurled stones at police.

According to guidelines issued by the police, accredited groups must not move out of designated areas, burn items or behave in a manner that would "provoke a breach of peace."

An estimated 300 activists are expected either in Singapore or Batam, an hour ferry ride away. Many are likely to travel between the sites.

Public protests have long been prohibited in the city-state. Gatherings of more than four people require a police permit. Those convicted of unlawful assembly can be fined up to 1,000 Singapore dollars (645 US).

Hoping the world's biggest banking event will catapult Singapore further in its bid to become a global financial centre, elaborate precautions have been taken.

Helicopters will circle above on a watch for any illegal gatherings, and more than 10,000 soldiers and police plan to provide round-the-clock security.

Organizers are confident a parallel International People's Forum (IPF) planned by a consortium of non-government organizations will go ahead as planned on Batam.

"We're not backing out from the forum," said Chona Ramos, with the IPF secretariat in Manila.

Although media in Jakarta reported earlier that police said permits would not be issued for the event, Ramos said negotiations were continuing with Batam officials and the forum would most likely proceed. Foreigners would be able to attend, she said, but are banned from street protests under Indonesian law.

Sinapan Samydorai, head of the Think Center based in Singapore, noted the bulk of people going to Batam are Indonesians who, under law, have the right to protest as long as they give police three days notice.

"Come!" was also his message. "Civil society members will have opportunities for engagement with delegates.

As for the suggestion that they be creative in Singapore, Samydorai proposed wearing bright coordinated colours. "Adopt a grim expression" over the restrictions, he added.


For all of you who will be taking to the streets or indoor area, no violence please.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Reform of IMF, one step closer

THE world's financial leaders are set to endorse an Australian initiative to redesign the International Monetary Fund, the watchdog of the global economy, to reflect the new power of Asia and other rising economies.

The proposal, which Treasurer Peter Costello personally has promoted strongly to his counterparts overseas, would start a two-stage process for major renovations to the fund, set up in 1945 as a source of advice and lender of last resort to keep the world from economic collapse.

The issue will come to a crunch next week in Singapore, when finance ministers from all over the world are expected to adopt the Australian plan, approving an immediate increase in voting rights for China, South Korea, Mexico and Turkey as a downpayment on the first significant overhaul of the IMF since it was founded.

The ministers will be in Singapore for the annual meetings of the IMF and its sister, the World Bank, where the reform plan will take centre stage, along with the slow-moving discussions on reforming global financial imbalances.

Debate on the issue will then move to Melbourne, where in November, under the chairmanship of Mr Costello, the finance ministers and central bankers of the world's biggest economies will begin what is likely to be a long and bitterly divisive process to redesign the fund to better reflect the 21st century world.

Mr Costello has nominated IMF reform, along with security in energy and the implications of ageing for global finances, as one of the three core topics to be debated by the G20 finance ministers and bank governors in Melbourne. Among those expected to attend are new US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, and European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet.

The plan was approved in Washington on Friday by the fund's executive board, although there has been some opposition from African countries concerned that a bigger voting share for China and other fast-growing economies will be partly at their expense.

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