Ahead of the April 10 mass protest planned by the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL), the Liberia National Police (LNP) yesterday invited PATEL Chairman, Presley Tenwah at the LNP Headquarters for questioning.
PATEL is comprised of Liberian business owners. Their planned action, they said, will shut down Monrovia and other cities to bring the government’s attention to the plight of business people, especially the indigenous traders.
Unlike the three-day shutdown recently, the forthcoming protest, they say, will go on until the government does something about their concerns.
Tenwah’s invitation from the LNP was confirmed by police spokesman Sam Collins in an interview yesterday.
Collins said, “Tenwah was invited for questioning on why he was distributing leaflets to business people when it is part of the LNP operations under its Public Management Law.
“The guy is planning a protest and the LNP does not know about it. We should be aware of such activity. We need to be aware about what is happening and this will help us to better prepare ourselves to ensure that the public is not disturbed,” said Collins.
Asked how long Tenwah’s meeting with the LNP took, Collins said that was irrelevant. “After all, he was not in jail. We had a gentlemen’s discussion with him and we allowed him to go home.”
PATEL issued a statement last week critical of the depreciation of the Liberian dollar against the United States dollar; high tariffs and incidental tariffs that are placed on goods imported by Liberian businesses, and constant police harassment of traders, including street sellers.
The statement appealed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to quickly respond to their concerns as soon as April 3, a week before the planned strike action to avoid any conflict that may arise.
The statement also called on members of the House of Representatives and Senate to immediately look into “the imposition of high tariffs on goods imported to Liberia, constant increase of the United States dollar rate on the market and police harassment of petty traders.”
PATEL called for the classification of Liberian businesses as a special group in relation to the four categories of tariffs, to enable them to pay a flat rate tax of 0% – 5% on all goods imported into Liberia.
PATEL also called for a single customs examination before any payment is made, instead of multiple examinations of goods with separate and distinct tax payments.
According to the LNP, however, the government will not tolerate any action that will destabilize the country’s peace, especially at such a crucial election period.
Government spokesman, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe at the just-ended Cabinet retreat in Julijuah, Bomi County, strongly warned PATEL and other business leaders against disturbing the peace and hindering economic growth, saying such actions will not be tolerated.
“We want to sound this alarm again to all of those who are planning the disturbance of our peace and the disturbance of our economic growth to desist because we will not tolerate any disturbance of the peace or any activity that will hinder economic growth in our country,” Nagbe said last Friday.
With the current development, officials of PATEL could not be reached to find out from them what will be their next course of action – whether they will abide by the government’s orders to desist or carry out their nationwide strike action as planned. In their statement last week, PATEL warned Liberians to ensure that they purchase enough essential supplies for a long campaign.
“This time around we are not going to relent if we cannot hear from the lawmakers. We are calling on Ma Ellen to speak for us so that our concerns can be resolved. All we’ve been getting is promises but nothing has changed. All they have been saying to us is that we should come on March 10th; and then go-and-come-back tactics,” the statement said, last week.
Minister Nagbe accused PATEL and its agents of attempting to incite other businesses to participate in activities that are unfavorable to the economy and Liberia’s peace.
He also accused the group of distributing leaflets with intimidating tactics, saying such actions by PATEL “are unacceptable to the government,” and called on peaceful business owners to go about their normal business activities without fear of intimidation from PATEL.