A pro-cultural group, the Indigenous Rights Action Committee of Liberia (IRACL), has called on the government to take drastic actions against non-governmental organizations that are in the habit of interfering in the internal matters of the Poro and Sande Colleges (PSC).
In a communication to the Daily Observer, IRACL said the constant interference of NGOs in the matters of the colleges is counterproductive to the growth of these institutions and is intended to rid Liberia of its culture and heritage.
“Let any interference in the affairs of these institutions be subject to disciplinary measures in line with local customary laws and statutory mandates. It is time that the government start punishing those that interfere in PSC matters,” Dr. Sakui Malakpa, the group’s leader said.
Dr. Malakpa added that no matter the situation, “the government should not tolerate any form of invasion, diminution, degradation, opprobrium, marginalization, or anything that threatens the existence and functions of the PSC by any forces of cultural imperialism and ethnocentrism.”
He also called on the government to ensure that the rights and practices of these colleges are restored, maintained, and perpetuated instead of been suspended.
The IRACL president added that any proposed changes for improving the Poro and Sande Colleges need to be discussed only with the appropriate leadership panels.
“Besides, these colleges had profound and lasting positive impacts and served as a medium for traditional knowledge transfers, like medicine. Therefore, they shouldn’t be sidelined by negative reports of foreign actors whose intentions are to destroy the practices and render Liberians culture-less.”
Meanwhile, IRACL is calling on the government to desist from political interference in the running of the PSC.
Dr. Malakpa added that instead of the government’s direct involvement in the PSC, they should utilize the colleges’ systemic and hierarchical leadership arrangements to channel its protests and grievances—as a sign of respect for the institutions.
“We are grateful that such channels exist because, as cultures and societies change, there may be a need to address and ameliorate certain aspects of these colleges. If so, such changes can be discussed with the leadership panels known only to people of a higher echelon of membership,” he added.
“If there have been violations of societal norms by elements of these institutions, such echelons of the colleges should be used to address such violations,” he said.
Dr. Syrulwa Somah, a historian and President of the Harbel College, said the PSC functions as the custodian of the heritage, behavioral patterns, creeds, linguistic legacy, sociopolitical structure, ancestry, art, medicines, spirituality, and cultural values.
He added: “Their curriculum comprises of social and political knowledge of oral history and lore, communal work, appropriate conduct of sexual deportment, economical roles, military combat, diplomacy, healing, sacred songs, and dances.
“It is an institution where man and woman first learn the rites of birth, adulthood, marriage, eldership, and ancestorship that can only be learned or passed on only through the walls of the PSC,” Somah added.
Somah further explained that the notion that the PSC is solely for circumcision is a fantastical mythology that has been perpetuated by NGO and some individual who wants to paint a negative image of the PSC.