My Hatch Won't Open!

Hey there folks!
I have a 1997 Jeep Cherokee that has decided to not let me open its hatch anymore. I live in Alaska, the land of rough and bumpy roads, so why am I surprised this has happened?
I have a general idea of how to fix this but not quite ready to approach the situation. Any words of advice?
I know the objective is to make the connection with the latch happen again, but what I am really hesitant about is getting to the latch itself. Do I really have to rip off the panel and risk it never going back where it came from? How do you still make it look pretty?

There is usually an access port built in the plastic interior trim. If you crawl back there, you might be able to pry it off and see what is going on. I am sure you have tried WD-40 already.

On the slim chance that you have a salvage yard anywhere close, you might be able to find a similar vehicle with the latch exposed. Then you’d see what to do to get access.

AS mine (2001) does the same thing, What was your solution? I have the interior panel off and have tightened, lubed and fiddled but it works for a while and the locks up again…