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Sri Lankan Driving Licenses to be accepted in Italy

Sri Lanka became the first County to have successfully negotiated the mutual acceptance, by the Italian government, of its Driving license.

When the Italian Government in May 2009 decided not to accept driving licenses issued by other countries, other than those from the European Union, thousands of Sri Lankans in Italy were thrown out of employment. The unemployment rate thus began to increase dramatically. This not only affected the male drivers it also affected their spouses. They too, were thrown out of employment as the Italian employers preferred to have a couple employed as drivers and caregivers. Some were driven to suicide. The Embassy in Rome was inundated with calls from desperate Sri Lankans requesting its intervention to settle the problem.

As the driving license issue was the policy of the Italian Ministry of Transport, it became the most difficult diplomatic impasse faced by the Sri Lankan Embassy.

However, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Rome, Hemantha Warnakulasuriya was not to give in. He began to explore the possibility of the Ministries of Transport and External Affairs considering entering into an agreement for mutually accepting the Driving Licenses of both countries to be valid in the country where the license holder would visit for employment and or recreation. The Italian Foreign Ministry, after much deliberation agreed to discuss the draft agreement without an undertaking that it would be accepted.It was one of the major tasks undertaken by the Embassy and Ambassador Warnakulasuriya, who had already established a firms and extremely friendly relationship with the Italian Government. Former Minister of Commerce Saman Udagedera and Darhsana Perera, Minister Counsellor, from the Ministry of External Affairs, were in charge of drafting the agreement. After the retirement of Udagedera, it was the sole responsibility of Darshana Perera to continue with the uphill task of completing the first draft. The team faced major difficulties as there were many areas in the agreement where Italian government steadfastly refused to agree to the clause that in the case of any divergent opinion expressed on the text, the binding text would be that of the English Language. It was necessary to get Colombo to agree to drop this preference so that both languages would be given equal status.

Sri Lanka’s Commissioner of Motor Traffic B. D. L. Dharmapriya, who saw the importance of the agreement, was immense help in expediting the most difficult technical annexure. His department kept to the difficult deadlines of the Italian Government. Transport Minister Kumara Welgama and the Secretary to the Cabinet Mr. Abesysinghe saw to it that the agreement was approved by the Cabinet.

Ambassador Warnakulasuriya thanked Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Fratteni, Deputy Minister Mrs Stefano Carxi and Dr. Maurizio Vielli, Director General of Motor Traffic, Mrs Scarpato and, Mrs Lo Monte, Ambassador G. Magliano and very specially Ambassador Andrea Perugini, Deputy Director General of Global affairs and his staff Alessandro Pitotti and Andrea Monti.

On MAY 20, 2011 Ambassador Hemantha Warnakulasuriya and Ambassador Andrea Perugini signed the agreement and exchanged the notes.

Ambassador Warnakulasuriya said if not for the untiring efforts of Saman Udagedera, Darshana Perera and Angelo Perera, who was responsible for translating the English text into Italian this would have only been a dream.


Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 @ 03:16:38 LKT


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