As Businesses Plan 2nd Protest, Police Briefly Detain PATEL Leaders

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Two officials from the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia have been released after their reported arrest by officers of the Liberia National Police on Monday.

PATEL’s National Chairman, Presley Tenwah said he, along with the association’s financial consultant, were arrested and taken to the headquarters of the Liberia National Police in handcuffs, allegedly on the order of the deputy inspector general for operations, Col. Abraham Kromah.

Without an arrest warrant, Tenwah said he and his officer were forced into a taxi and taken to the zone five police depot in Paynesville, where the commander there informed the two arresting officers that Kromah needed the two PATEL executives at the central police office.

“One of the two officers asked me whether I was Presley, and I told him, yes, and he said they had been looking for me since last night to arrest me,” Tenwah said. PATEL’s national chairman said he was not given a reason for his arrest but was told that “an order came from above” to arrest him.

According to Tenwah, the PATEL officers had gone to meet some of their members in Paynesville’s Red Light community to finalize plans for the planned April 10 strike to protest the government’s failure to address concerns that were earlier raised by the group.

He said that meeting was with two of their members at a store, not a mass gathering of people.

National chairman of PATEL, Presley Tenwah. Photo: Gbatemah Senah

National chairman of PATEL, Presley Tenwah. Photo: Gbatemah Senah

On the way to the police headquarters, Tenwah said the officers attempted to carry them into the yard of the Ministry of Health, but left when the security at the Ministry refused the officers entry after 20 minutes of trying. Tenwah said he had no idea why he was taken to the Ministry of Health.

He said the officer at the Charge of Quarter at the Police Headquarters refused to detain them on grounds that there were no charges.

“When we got at the Police Headquarters, the officers told the guy in charge to detain us, but he requested for our discharge,” Tenwah said. “They only presented our citation addressed to our members, but the officer in charge refused because the citation did not warrant any offense.”

After going through a period of profile screening and photographing, the PATEL chairman said they were taken to the Ministry of Justice, where Minister Fredric Cherue informed them that their arrest was an attempt by the government to prevent the April 10 protests from taking place.

Tenwah said they were released immediately following the statements by the justice minister and asked to return to the ministry on Wednesday for further discussions.

He said Kromah also informed a member of their legal team that their arrest was prompted mainly because their demands would prevent the police from being paid this month.

Several attempts to contact police spokesman Sam Collins did not yield a response by press time.

Meanwhile, Tenwah said his group remained committed to carrying out their protest beginning on Monday of next week.

PATEL had earlier circulated a memo to its members and the public that businesses would be closed on Monday, April 10 in demand of an official response from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to address their concerns.

The group wants the government to take immediate action to address what it says is a hike in the value of the US dollars against the local currency, high tariffs on imported goods, the seizure of goods of petit street traders by officers of the city and national police, and a doubling of municipal and garbage collections fees being charged by the city governments of Monrovia and Paynesville.

They also want the government to give exclusive retailing rights to only Liberian businesses and to open Import Permit Declaration to all Liberian businesses for rice, sugar, flour, and frozen foods, amongst other products.

PATEL had given the government an ultimatum to address their demands dating back February and Tenwah has said his group will stage a bigger protest that will continue until the demands are addressed by the government.

He said other members of the business community and the public have expressed a willingness to join PATEL in its next protest. He named the petroleum dealers, road transport unions, health workers, and teachers among groups that are willing to join them in solidarity.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

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