Local businesses here have demonstrated complete divide over a call by some individuals under the banner Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia or PATEL to repeat a mass protest through the closure of their businesses and hold the economy hostage as was done earlier this year for few days.
Unlike late January and early February when roughly most businesses shut down in Monrovia and its surroundings either in support of the protest or for fear of being looted by criminals, PATEL’s latest call for protest appears to be ignored by a lot of businesses, demonstrated by opening of some businesses while some shutdown on Monday, 10 April.
The protest group says its go-slow strike action is in continuation ofprevious protest held here between January 31 and February 2 this yearin an effort to grab government’s attention to address the plight ofbusiness people concerning high tariffs.
In defiance to government’s call for the group to abort its plannedprotest, PATEL Secretary General Mr. Mentee P. Gbeimie says in an interview with the NewDawn via mobile phone that PATEL remains oncourse with its go-slow strike action and it will not listen until theneeds of the business people are addressed.
But the NewDawn has observed that while some business establishmentswere supporting the protest, there were others that refused to supportthe process, demonstrated through their engagement in normal businessactivities on Monday, the first day of the second leg of the PATEL -initiated protest.
Stores in the densely populated Paynesville area including coldstorages in Redlight were opened on Monday to the public for generalbusiness transactions, while some businesses run mainly by Fulanisremained closed to the public.
The disagreement between businesses operating under PATEL shows division among PATEL member business establishments. Several business operators spoken to by our reporter strongly condemned the protest on grounds that it is an attempt by some businesses allegedly sponsored by certain unnamed big hands to create chaos in the country.
In defiance to PATEL’s call, those that are opposed to the protest are insisting that their various businesses would continue toremain opened for transaction as long as they receive the protectionof the Ministry of Justice or MoJ.
Some opponents of the protest are saying they are no longer stupid tobe deceived by individuals whose true intent is to createmisunderstanding amongst PATEL members and plunge the organizationinto serious trouble with government.
According to them, there is nothing that PATEL can do to change thecurrent economic trends that the country is going through, claimingthat PATEL’s motives are not in the best interest of ordinarybusinesses that depend on the general public to patronize their dailyoperations.
Several Lebanese, Indian and Chinese business proprietors say theywant government to increase security patrol across the city to protectbusinesses that intend to provide services to Liberians.
The foreign merchants have further explained that some of them areallegedly being threatened by some individuals claiming to be PATELofficials to blacklist their respective businesses for failing to jointhe protest action.
“We are watching the protest and in the coming days we will open ourbusinesses once we get the security protection of the government”,some foreign merchants have said.
In the wake of protest situation here, officers of the LiberiaNational Police or LNP, the Liberia National Fire Service, theLiberian Immigration Service and the Drugs Enforcement Agency are seenpatrolling the streets of Paynesville and Bushrod Island by foot andin vehicles, calling on businesses to remain opened.
In spite of the divide in the protests, PATEL Secretary General Mr.Gbeimie says the 1986 Constitution of Liberia gives everyone the rightto their future, saying it is not a crime or a violation to any lawhere if business entity decides to shut down in protest againstillegal and unjustifiable imposition of high and incidental tariffs by
“We therefore want to use this medium to call on our members,including business owners throughout Liberia to strictly observe thisone week closure of businesses, and should remain at home and stayaway from the streets to avoid any scuffle with the police”, Mr. Gbeimie says.
He claims that this second go-slow is to remind the government of thepromise it made during the time of the first protest action. Inreaction to the refusal of other businesses to join the protest, Mr.Gbeimie says it is very unfortunate for other members of the group toopen their businesses, noting that they are all aware of the alleged
huge tariff government has placed on goods.
By Emmanuel Mondaye and Lewis Teh-Editing by Winston W. Parley