What was expected to have been the beginning of several days of protests engineered by the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL) lost ground yesterday as Liberian businesses returned to their usual daily operations.
The protest, which began on Monday, April 10, did not get the maximum support anticipated by PATEL. Although PATEL’s Secretary General Mentee Gbeimie boasted that the first day’s protest was “successful,” the story changed dramatically.
A tour of central Monrovia and the major business centers of Duala and Red Light, Paynesville, revealed that the protest was dead.
“It was a mistake to close my store,” a Liberian business owner in central Monrovia said. “We should rather seek audience with the government.”
On Benson Street in central Monrovia and also downtown Water Side where many businesses “played it safe” and chose not to open their stores wide on Monday, many store owners who opened their stores yesterday told the Daily Observer that it was not the most effective way to get the government to do what is needed. Many said they chose not to open their stores for fear that they would have been attacked, which did not happen.
“I survive on what I sell,” said female business owner, “not to sell means no food for me and my children.”
She said the first 3-day lockdown of business in the city by PATEL recently was successful and enough.
“We need good methods to get the government to answer us,” she said.
While Information Minister Eugene Lenn Nagbe called on PATEL to rescind its decision to call on Liberian business owners to close their stores, Justice Minister Cllr. Frederick Cherue said on a The Truth FM Breakfast Show that Liberian owned businesses should “rather remain closed for the next 20 years.”
Cllr. Cherue said the Liberia National Police has been authorized to let police officers patrol the various cities to ensure that no one was harassed by any business group to close their stores, if they don’t want to. He also warned those behind the call for the protest to desist, or face the full weight of the law when caught.
It may be recalled that PATEL, after its successful first 3-day strike, announced a major protest that would have included taxi drivers, pem-pem operators and gas stations.
However, pem-pem operators, gas stations and other drivers did not participate in the Monday closure action.
With what seemed to be a failure to keep the momentum of the protest going, there is a growing consensus that dialogue with the government, particularly members of the House of Representatives, is the wiser way to go to show the country’s political maturity.