Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan drivers who’ve been stuck with flimsy paper licenses can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The Department of Motor Traffic (DMT) has announced it will clear the backlog of 865,000 temporary licenses by October this year, replacing them with proper laminated cards.
This welcome news comes after months of frustration for both drivers and police officers. The island nation’s crippling economic crisis forced the DMT to stop importing printing materials, leaving applicants with temporary paper licenses instead of the usual laminated cards. While these paper substitutes were technically valid, they lacked the security features and durability of proper licenses, causing friction during traffic stops.
“Police officers faced challenges during routine checks due to the lack of proper security features on the paper licenses,” State Transport Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna acknowledged. “This caused inconvenience for both drivers and officers.”
But with a glimmer of economic recovery and improved foreign exchange reserves, the government has resumed printing materials imports. Three new printing machines, a collaboration with the private sector, have been set up, churning out around 4,000 laminated licenses daily.
“By October, we aim to issue driving licenses instantly, without any backlog,” Alagiyawanna declared, prioritizing those needing licenses for job opportunities or interviews.
Sri Lanka isn’t just tackling its domestic backlog – it’s revving up tourism too. Starting in April, foreign visitors won’t have to navigate the Werahera bureaucracy anymore. They can breeze through airport check-in and pick up their driving licenses on arrival, making the island’s scenic roads even more accessible. This not only streamlines the process for tourists but also injects valuable foreign exchange into the recovering economy.