Singapore Media Watch

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Singapore left lasting impression on IMF/WB delegates - CNA

Singapore left lasting impression on IMF/WB delegates

Channel NewsAsia
Valarie Tan
Posted: 22 September 2006 2131 hrs

After reading the above article, most unknowingly readers will be led to believe that Singapore has instead hosted the "best" IMF/WB meeting based on the choice of the following words:

1. Most were impressed with the facilities provided.

2. ...scored high marks amongst the delegates.

3. the best annual meetings they have attended.

4. Many delegates also appreciated the tight security provided by organisers.

Who is the targetted audience of this article? The average Singaporean who may not know much about the IMF/WB meetings and may be ignorant of reports from foreign correspondences. The intention of the writer is to lead Singaporeans to have a favorable impression of the event.

The use of "most" and "many" are unsubstantiated and the use of selective "positive" quotes from a few delegates serves to create a false impression that delegates are indeed full of praises for the host nation. However, these are merely diplomatic replies which do not quite reflect reality accurately. If you are guest at an event, do you give negative feedback on your hosts to reporters? Whether there are criticisms the public would not know as these are probably censored and banned from the publication.

Regardless of what good things delegates said of us and what the local media writes, it is the perception of foreigners that matter because one of the aims of hosting the IMF-WB meeting is to promote Singapore as a "MICE" destination. The foreign press, however, paints a drastically different picture from what was reported by Singapore papers. Instead of

Instead of feeding Singaporeans with "feel good" positive news, the media should instead look at the lessons that could be learnt.

I am surprised that the following issues were not addressed:

1. Singapore spent more than S$100 million dollars on the event. Have we recouped the investment? The tight security in Suntec and diversion of roads has led to a sharp drop in

2. Singapore has repeatedly invoke the threat of terrorism for the draconian security measures being imposed. On what basis did they justify it? The major terrorist attacks in the world, e.g. 911, the Bali bombings, did not occur in a street demonstration. In fact, all of the recent public demonstrations in Asia this year in Thailand and Taiwan are largely peaceful and uneventful.

3. The use of police personnel and vehicles to prevent Dr Chee and 6 others from marching to Parliament House during the IMF-WB meeting. Is this justitfied? If Dr Chee has committed a crime, why don't the Police made an arrest. Instead, Hong Lim park was surrounded by uniformed police, plaincloths detectives and the media. The footage of the hustlings was published widely on the internet and appears on the front page of Financial Times. This will create a wrong impression that Singapore is a "police state" intolerant of dissent. The use of a police squad to confine a group of unarmed citizens is making us a joke internationally.

4. WB President Paul Wolfowitz had made a damning statement that Singapore has done "enormous damage" to its reputation. By revealing that Singapore has breached an MOU signed in 2003 to allowed accreditated activists into the country, he has cast doubts on our government's honesty and integrity. Will international organizations and countries dare to deal with a country which breach MOUs at its wimp and fancy? Why didn't the government rebut Paul Wolfowitz's allegations?

5. If the IMF-WB meeting is such a great success, why didn't the foreign media report it as such. Instead, it focus on minor issues such as the banning and deportation of activists, the boycott of the event by major CSOs and Dr Chee's empower Singaporean rally. Do we have a department to liaise with the foreign press? This is a PR disaster for our nation. Have we learnt on how to be more savvy with the foreign media in future?

6. The role of CSOs had been grossly underestimated by the government. While it accords the IMF-WB officials with high regards and respect, the same cannot be said of CSOs whom it regards little more than potential "trouble-makers". This perhaps stems from a shallow understanding of the importance of CSOs in shaping public policy and in part from the absence of an active civil society in Singapore which explains their inaptitude and inexperience in dealing with them. Major CSOs such as Greenpeace have political affliations in many European countries and Green parties are part of government coalitions in Denmark and Germany.


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