Open Letter to Haruhiko Kuroda, President, ADB, regarding security measures during the ADB AGM in Hyderabad during May 2006
July 24, 2006
Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda
The Asian Development Bank
Sub: Security Measures during the Annual Governors’ Meeting in Hyderabad.
Dear Mr. Kuroda:
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are writing to you to register our strong protest against the completely unwarranted and harsh security measures that were put in place during the 39th Annual Governors’ Meeting (AGM) of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Hyderabad this May. These measures amount to a violation of the democratic rights of all those who oppose the policies of the ADB and reflect extremely poorly on the ADB’s claims that it supports democracy, accountability and transparency. They are a clear indication to us and to the world that contrary to the ADB’s rhetoric, the ADB is not open or able to accept criticism, and is unwilling to tolerate dissent with regards to its policies, ideology and operations.
You may wish to claim that you are not aware of the measures we refer to. Allow us to remind you. From May 2-6, over 5000 people gathered in Hyderabad on a broad platform titled the Peoples’ Forum Against the ADB (PFAADB). The aim of this platform was to discuss the nature and impacts of the development and financing model promoted by the ADB, and share the impacts of this model on the peoples of the Asia-Pacific? region. The spirit and intention of the PFAADB was non-violent and peaceful. However, delegates to the AGM and members of the press were given a completely false impression about the PFAADB, and PFAADB events and plans were subjected to constant harassment and repression by State security authorities.
Any and all protests near the Hyderabad Convention Centre—the AGM venue—were banned.
Barricades and check-posts manned by Hyderabad police were set up in a radius of 5 kilometers around the AGM venue.
Official delegates to the AGM were advised to travel in official AGM buses to avoid “security harassment.”
The Hyderabad Police imposed Prohibitory Orders under Section 144 throughout the city that prevented the assembly of more than 4 people at any given time.
Rallies and other events in public spaces were permitted by Hyderabad Police only along specific scheduled routes, chosen entirely with the intention of ensuring least publicity to such acts of democratic expression and especially to remain “unnoticeable” by AGM delegates. The Hyderabad Police approved only two routes for demonstration rallies, both of which were on deserted by-lanes of the city.
The Hyderabad police refused the PFAADB a venue of its choice to hold a candlelight vigil, and eventually compelled it to cancel the event altogether;
Andhra Pradesh State authorities sabotaged the organization of a film festival that aimed to screen films on the impact of ADB financed mega projects on the lives of ordinary people throughout the Asia-Pacific? region; in fact, the management of the state-owned institute where the festival was supposed to be held said they could not allow “government premises to be used for anti-government activities;” this was indeed a big surprise for us since we were not aware that the ADB had become the Government of India. And that exercising one’s Freedom of Expression, the ground for all democratic functioning, by organizing a Film Festival, was in itself an “anti-governmental” activity! Clearly this speaks extremely poorly of the faith ADB has in democracy itself.
Indian Intelligence Department officers were posted at the venue of meetings organized by the PFAADB and attempted to record the names of participants in the events, including by video; these officers also stayed at the same venues where PFAADB participants were staying without identifying their true identities and recorded the names and details of all PFAADB participants.
Indian Intelligence officers were present inside the Hyderabad Convention Center and recorded the names of NGO representatives attending the NGO-ADB “Question Hour” held with you on May 3rd.
The Hyderabad airport was heavily fortified, as were the route from the airport to the AGM venue and the hotels where AGM delegates were staying.
Delegates of the PFAADB were harassed at the Hyderabad airport for merely holding up anti-ADB placards. However, they had no problem whatsoever for a plethora of welcome signs and graffiti associated with your ADB AGM.
The State Police attempted to harass PFAADB organizers by claiming that the main venue for PFAADB events--Priyadarshini Hall in the Hyderabad Public Gardens—could not be used for a gathering of such a large number of people because it was near the State Assembly; this is despite the fact that prior permission for using the space had already been granted by Municipal Authorities.
You and the ADB Management will no doubt claim that it was not the ADB itself that was responsible for the above measures and that these actions were carried out by the police and security officials of the Andhra Pradesh State and Indian Government. Legally speaking, this may be true. However, there no doubt in our minds that the ADB must take responsibility at the highest levels for creating such a climate of paranoia and intolerance before and during the Hyderabad AGM. You cannot win a people by forcing them to be democratically constrained in their own public spaces.
What happened in Hyderabad was not new to us at all. During the ADB AGM in 2000 in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the AGM venue was heavily fortified and Thai security agents swarmed all over the alternative Peoples’ Forum events. Paramilitary and police troops were even brought in from other regions in Thailand to ensure the levels of security expected by AGM delegates. During the ADB AGM in Honolulu in 2001, snipers were posted on the rooftop of the AGM venue—the Honolulu Convention Centre--and the Convention Centre was cordoned off from public passage. In fact so draconian were the security measures that serious discord broke out between the Honolulu municipality, the police, and the agencies charged with providing security for the AGM.
The repeated record of extreme and unwarranted security measures during ADB AGMs that suspend the democratic rights of ordinary peoples to express dissent openly through protests and other public activities cannot be a mere coincidence.
We also find it inexplicable that an institution that carries as its motto “Fighting poverty in the Asia and Pacific” is so scared of any proximity with ordinary people. As we see it, one cannot fight poverty from the confines of lavish conference venues and Five Star Hotels, financed mainly by millions of poor and honest tax-payers the world over.
Since its founding, the ADB has been responsible for trampling on the rights and aspirations of millions of people in the Asia-Pacific? region by destroying their livelihoods, natural resources and ways of life through terribly designed projects and misguided mal-development policies. There are material and verifiable reasons why communities and peoples across the region claim that the ADB creates “development refugees” and are calling for the ADB to quit the Asia and the Pacific. The experience of the ADB AGMs further demonstrates to us that the Bank is capable of undermining democracy by its mere presence in any given place.
We ask you to provide the people of Asia-Pacific?, especially those negatively affected by ADB projects and programmes, with a credible explanation for why such security measures are considered necessary to protect the ADB from the constituencies that the Bank is supposed to be assisting.