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Singapore Bars Activists From World Bank-IMF Meeting

The World Bank has criticized Singapore for barring invited activists from entering the country to attend the joint annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The World Bank says Singapore's decision to bar a number of activists from participating in next week's meeting is a breach of an agreement signed three years ago.

Speaking to civil society organizations in Singapore, Thursday, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz urged the government of the city-state to reconsider its decision. He underlined the importance of the activists' participation in the meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

"I certainly hope their opinions are not the reason they are being excluded and if the opinions are critical of our institutions, that's all the more reason that it's important for us to hear them. We may or may not agree but it's very important that we hear that information. If this is censorship based on alleged views of the people then it's an even more serious problem."

Citing security reasons, Singapore has banned more than 20 foreign activists from entering the country, even though they had invitations from the World Bank and the IMF.

Two Filipino activists were deported from Singapore on Wednesday.

The police have also set up tough restrictions on demonstrations and other events. Singapore authorities say they want to prevent violent anti-globalization protests similar to those that have marred World Trade Organization meetings.

Marivic Raquiza, a member of the civil group Global Call to Action Against Poverty in the Philippines, criticizes Singapore's treatment of foreign activists.

"They seem to be quite hostile to civil society, to the ability of civil society to speak and gather freely," she said. "And they tend to choose and become highly selective in terms of who are the good NGOs and the bad NGOs, so we resent the fact they are picking and choosing whom to let in whom not to."

Raquiza says a number of accredited non-governmental organizations are discussing a boycott of next week's meeting to protest Singapore's hard line stand against civil groups.