By Neto Baptiste
Amidst a rise in reports of vandalism of sporting facilities across the island, sports minister Daryll Matthew is not convinced that reinstating the once popular Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) arrangement between government and community groups or sporting clubs will serve to halt the practice.
In an interview with Observer media, Matthew said that although consideration could be given to resurrecting a similar type arrangement in the future, he does not believe it will solve what he calls the costly destruction of government owned facilities.
“It was a mechanism that was in place before and perhaps we may get to a place where it is done again, but I am not sure that it solves the problem because if you have a community group, let’s say a sports club, and that sports club uses that facility. So, they cut the grass and whenever the lights need changing they make the reports to the relevant authorities and they keep the place in a usable manner. What is the additional benefit of an MOU?” he said.
“When we were growing up there were no MOUs in place but we had community groups — whether they be clubs or other groups that looked after our facilities — and there was no one who could come, vandalise it, not take care of it, litter it without those groups addressing the matter immediately,” he added.
The initiative, first introduced in 2004 by the UPP administration, was halted in 2015 by then sports minister and ABLP politician, EP Chet Greene, who argued that the clubs and or groups were not adequately positioned to manage the facilities.
Matthew opined that some groups used the MOU arrangement as a “weapon” to keep certain groups or individuals from accessing the facilities.
“The groups that are empowered through these MOUs to manage these facilities, sometimes use it as a weapon to stop other people from using the facilities, and so what we do not want is to empower one particular group to manage a public facility to the detriment of others. We see no reasons why our community leaders can’t step up and offer leadershi; and when I say community leaders I am not talking about politicians,” he said.
The sports minister renewed his call for better overall community management of the facilities.
“It is almost coming across as if it is government’s thing that we [community] use when we want to use it as opposed to it is a community thing that we need to protect so that we can use it whenever we want it. When you take that sense of ownership then you treat it differently and you take care of it,” Matthew said.
“The other phenomena, which I suppose is a long standing one is a situation where persons do not appear to support law enforcement and so it is a situation where no one ever sees anything, no one says anything because no one wants to be labeled a snitch or an informer,” he added. Recently, thieves removed copper wiring from the lighting structure at the Radio Range playing field and adjacent basketball court while there were reports of pitch vandalism in the New Winthorpes community.