|Back To Archives|
|Govít Boycotts PULís Rice Forum|
|Published on August 31, 2006||Email To Friend Print Version
By: D. K. Sengbeh
The Government of Liberia through the National Legislature and the Commerce Ministry yesterday boycotted a one-day public interactive forum on the Nations staple food, rice, organized by the Press Union of Liberia, (PUL).
The forum was intended to identify and discuss government’s policy on the constant supply and affordability of rice on the Liberian market and to also widen public debate on the recent “bidding” process which the Commerce Ministry claimed it carried out and won by the K & K Corporation and a would-be rice importing company, OLAM.
Neither did Commerce Minister Olubanke King–Akerele or any of her deputies appeared for the forum nor any member of the Legislature, especially the Chairpersons of the Lower and Upper Houses’ Committees on Commerce and Industries, who where particularly invited.
The Commerce Ministry was expected to explain the government’s policy to keep constant supply of rice on the market while the Lawmakers were to expound on the Legislative perspective on ways to keep sufficient rice available in the country.
However, participants and panelists as well as the PUL expressed deep repugnance that those who are considered key policy makers could turn down such a forum with great national interest and socio-political implications.
Some participants from the public claimed that the Liberian Government was not in the interest of the Liberian people evidenced by its gross absence at the forum intended to discuss issues that affect the livelihood of the citizens.
Top government official invited to the forum included Commerce Minister Akerele, Senator Nathaniel Innis, Chairman of the Senate Committee on commerce and Representative Haja Fata Sayon, Chairman of the Lower House committee on commerce. No reasons were given for their boycott.
PUL Secretary General told the gathering that all efforts were made to have the government officials attend the forum, but they regrettably turned it down. Mr. Zeon said up to moments before the forum commenced yesterday, the Union kept reminding the invited government officials but they failed to show up despite positive assurances from some of them.
He said when the debate failed to take effect last Friday at the University of Liberia campus due to student protest action, the invitees were informed of the new date. Other officials of the Union said the information was also published in nearly all the newspapers and termed the shunning as being intentional.
Despite the absence of the government officials at the forum, it went well with representations from the K & K Corporation (a major rice importer) the Rice Dealers Association and former rice activist Gabriel Baccus Matthews who made presentations.
All the speakers called on government to leave open the rice market. They, in separate remarks, noted that Monopoly or the unannounced “bidding” process introduced by the Commerce ministry was not healthy for the country’s postwar economy, judging from the security and political nature of rice in Liberia.
They urged government to set a minimum ceiling price and open the market for any one to import. They believe that the market forces would determine the price of the commodity which would winch would become affordable due to competitions amongst importers.