NGOs reject offer to join dialogue

FOREIGN activists in Batam yesterday rejected an offer by Singapore to admit 22 of their delegates to the IMF and World Bank meetings in the city-state and stood firm on a decision to boycott the gathering. 

“We have decided not to accept the Singapore government's offer that they should go..,” Shalmali Guttal, a spokesman for activist group Focus on the Global South, told protesters gathered on this Indonesian island near Singapore. 

Singapore, responding to heavy criticism, said late Friday it would admit the 22 activists accredited by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as part of a long-standing dialogue between the financial institutions and their critics. 

Five remained on Singapore's blacklist and may be subject to questioning and deportation for security reasons. 

One of the 22 taken off the list was Italian activist Antonio Tricarico, director of Campaign for Reforms in the World Bank who was attending the forum of protesters in Batam. 

Apart from the 27 on the original blacklist, Tricarico said other activists had been deported or denied entry into Singapore, forcing them to take longer and more expensive flights to Batam where travellers can normally take a ferry to Singapore. 

Meanwhile, police blocked Singapore's opposition Democratic Party secretary-general Chee Soon Juan yesterday from holding a march through the city to protest restrictions on freedom of speech ahead of the IMF-World Bank meetings. – AFP  

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