Singapore authorities cast a wary eye on civil groups ahead of APEC summit

27 Nov

SINGAPORE: With two weeks to go before heads of state gather for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit here, Singapore is wary about allowing the entry of well-organised civil groups and disruptive individuals bent on derailing the talks.

Two Falungong followers, a Malaysian and an Indonesian, were reportedly denied entry into Singapore at Changi Airport last week.

According to the relevant media’s publication, the pair tried to enter the country separately on Oct 19 and Oct 22. The report also said the pair had previously made frequent trips to Singapore.

Falungong was banned in China in 1999 after it was accused of fanning social unrest. Though it is not outlawed in Singapore, several of its followers here have been arrested for holding illegal assemblies.

When MediaCorp cited the Falungong example and asked if Singapore was keeping out individuals who might pose law-and-order problems, a spokeswoman from the APEC Singapore 2009 organising committee said all requests to enter the country would be treated fairly.

“All sovereign nations have the prerogative to decide who cross their borders. Singapore is no exception,” she said. “This is especially so in the current security climate, where we have a duty to ensure the safety and security of the public.”

Security analyst Dr John Harrison from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies was not surprised with the entry ban related to APEC.

“The (Singapore) Government will get a variety of information in from all sources – open and classified – from partners in the region and around the world,” he said. “It will try and mitigate threats and risks as early as possible.”

Apart from the task of keeping out people with backgrounds tied to terrorism, the authorities would have their eye on individuals who could use the event to carry out violent protests, Dr Harrison said.

Three years ago, when Singapore hosted the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting, the authorities objected to 28 foreigners – all of whom had a history of taking part in violent protests or disruptive activities at previous meetings – from being allowed into the country.

Then, civil society organisations were allowed to protest in a small corner of the meeting venue at Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre; large-scale protests were confined to the Indonesian island of Batam.

Observers say that unlike the IMF event to which many civil society groups were invited, APEC’s broader platform is not likely to warrant the same level of involvement and, hence, numbers of activists. – TODAY



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