Sub-machineguns, Sunflowers greet IMF-WB delegates

Singapore, September 11 :

Singapore police mounted a massive show of force on Monday and reiterated a warning against street protests as delegates began arriving for the IMF and World Bank meetings in the city-state.

The conference venue, the Suntec City convention centre, was sealed off to normal traffic and ringed by steel fences topped by spikes after a high security alert was imposed late on Sunday. As delegates began registering at a nearby government building, a helicopter patrolled the sky above the venue.

Key points in and around the convention centre were manned by Nepalese Gurkha paramilitary police in dark blue uniforms. They are usually deployed in a low-profile role protecting government installations and foreign embassies.

The Gurkhas, armed with assault rifles, shotguns and curved knives, provided a stark contrast to a profusion of flowers and potted palms temporarily installed to brighten up the perimeter of the conference venue.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings, along with related seminars, are the biggest international gathering to be held in this city-state of 4.4 million people. More than 10,000 security personnel are being deployed to protect about 16,000 delegates from more than 180 countries, including finance ministers, central bank governors, a few heads of government and corporate bosses.

Extra security measures were also in place at Changi international airport, where volunteers welcomed delegates and red carpets have been laid down in front of the immigration counters.

About 20 foreign activists deemed to be a security threat to Singapore have been banned from entering the country despite being accredited by the World Bank. World Bank officials have criticised the ban. But Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng, who is also deputy prime minister, has dismissed the criticism, saying “terrorism” remains a threat and longstanding laws against protests cannot be relaxed for foreigners.

Officially-approved public interest groups known as Civil Society Organizations have been told to use a designated area in the lobby of the convention center to meet delegates and the media.