Late last morning, we visited a group of young people who were playing cricket in a public open space in a village near Gampaha. We were taken there by the local PS member from our youth wing who wanted to show us their current condition with a view to obtaining assistance in improving the existing facilities.
I ask the reader, if there is ONE public playing field in the country they know outside Colombo which is maintained? That is the problem. Let us assume we found the funds and completed the floodlit-volleyball court they requested. The electricity bill of the local community hall adjoining had not been paid and the wires removed from the Electricity Board. What guarantee and confidence can we get that despite funds being provided for facilities, the young people who use them will maintain it and take responsibility for even paying for the electricity use?
There is no point whatsoever in expecting an elected body to provide everything that is required unless the users also sacrifice in its construction and maintenance. This accountability, this private public partnership at the grass roots level is lacking. This sense of community that people all around the country keep talking about is lacking. It is easy to call the crowd to play the cricket game in the morning to have some fun and recreation. However no one can organize them to clean up the grounds, provide some order, cut the overgrown weeds or take responsibility.
It is automatically assumed that once a set of people are elected to a local government body, they would take care of those aspects. They just do not either have the money or time to look into the maintenance of each and every public area.
This kind of waste of public resources is common situation around the country, and until we know we are responsible for what we have and not someone else, nothing will change. Is it any wonder that donors are hard to come by? If I was willing to donate time or money or property, would I at least get the satisfaction that it was being put for the mutual benefit of a lot of people to enhance their quality of life, which is what community projects are all about.
I must also note the absence of females from this particular aspect of recreation, as they are generally not permitted from homes to play in public places except at school organized activities including sport. So this becomes a male dominated issue as it pertains to outdoor public playgrounds in the rural as well as urban areas. It sadly appears to me that once girls leave school they have no community recreation. It is of course different in Colombo, but it is the majority I refer to.