A reported plan by a consortium of local business people in Monrovia under the banner, Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia or PATEL, to protest for a third time against high tariffs and other regulations and government’s warning to quell any street protest has a potential to create unnecessary tension in an already politically-charged atmosphere here.
According to the Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, some individuals supposedly from PATEL were dropping leaflets at some business houses owned by Indians and Lebanese, threatening them that if they don’t join the upcoming protest, their businesses could face attack.
Minister Nagbe said the threat has been reported to the government. He emphasized on Prime Morning Drive, a live broadcast talkshow on Tuesday, 4th April that government has a duty to protect the peace and provide security for both Liberians and foreign residents in the country.
Already, there are reports that the Chairman of PATEL Mr. Presley Tenwah was picked up by the Ministry of Justice while addressing a forum in Monrovia. Police Spokesman Inspector Sam Collins confirmed to this paper when contacted on Wednesday, April 5, that Mr. Tenwah was called in for questioning and advice on his activities.
We think that the authorities should remain engaged with PATEL, particularly its leadership. As local business people contributing to the economy, members of the association have some concerns that government needs to address.
On the other hand, the Chairman of PATEL Mr. Tenwah should exercise leadership and responsibility at all times in his activities, keeping in mind the peace and stability of Liberia, and not just the profit motive. No one needs to remind us as Liberians that when the country is in turmoil, economic activities will not thrive because we all saw it during the civil war.
When the association shut down business houses in the capital for three days last December to demand government’s invention, it affected both sides and the general population. Government lost revenue, PATEL lost sales and the public was stranded. Certainly, we do not want to continue on this path.
The reality is that the economy is in serious recession as a result of global shocks. Rather than us being in acrimonious disagreement over how to proceed, we need to sit down as Liberians and brainstorm on how to revive the current economic situation rather than playing the blame game.
Yes, we agreed that some policy measures adapted by the government relative to tariffs and other regulations should be reviewed, given constraints faced by local business people, but it does not warrants threats and counter-threats. Instead, both sides need to meet regularly and keep talking to find a way out of the current quagmire.