Rights group says 48 deported,
    banned in Singapore

September 17, 2006
BATAM, Indonesia

By Koh Gui Qing

AROUND 48 activists from 16 countries who wanted to attend the IMF-World Bank meetings or related events in Singapore have been deported, banned or interrogated by police, a rights group said on Sunday, Sep 17.

The organizers of the International People's Forum on the Indonesian island of Batam -- where NGOs are staging an alternative meeting -- said that 12 activists had been deported, 27 had been warned they might be questioned or turned away and nine had been interrogated at Singapore's Changi airport.

Singapore police declined to comment.

Singapore, which is hosting the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings, was strongly criticised by the two international agencies for blacklisting several activists. Nearly 500 representatives of non-governmental organisations had registered for the event.

Forum officials told a news conference that 12 activists were deported from Singapore as they arrived at Changi airport and before they could make their way to Batam, a 40-minute ferry ride from Singapore. Forum officials declined to give any names.

Another 27 activists who had official accreditations to the IMF-World Bank meetings received an email saying that Singapore disapproved of their attendance at the meeting and that they might be subjected to interviews or turned away at immigration.

"It's been very frustrating. We had all these plans and we had to cancel them," Nadia Hadad, a media campaign coordinator with the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), a key organizer of the Forum, told Reuters.

Hadad was one of the 27 blacklisted activists, but she and 21 others were taken off the list following criticism of Singapore by World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.

The Singapore government said late on Friday it would allow in 22, but that five others would still be subject to questioning upon arrival and might be turned back.

Forum officials said another nine activists, of whom at least one was accredited for the meeting, were interrogated by immigration officers before being released in Singapore.

"It's a violation against our rights. We are not criminals. We have no track record of violence whatsoever," said Hadad.