Mar 17, 2018

Lankan wins at Italian regional polls! Featured

A Sri Lankan representing the Italian Democratic Party has succeeded in winning a seat in the Italian Regional Council of Lombardy (Consiglio Regionale della Lombardia), during the elections held on March 4, 2018.

He is Niranjan Vass (62), popularly known as Vass among Italians.

Born in Negombo, Sri Lanka he had initially attended the Nainamaduwa Roman Catholic school later St. Joseph Vaz College in Wennappuwa after Grade V.

Having got through his A/L examination in the Math stream in 1977, he could not enter university.

However, he joined the Fisheries Corporation as a technical officer.

Subsequently, having gone to Italy through a connection, he had paved his way right up to becoming an regional MP in Italy.

Explaining his journey in Italy, he said, “It was when I arrived in Italy that I understood that it was not possible to get a job here with the qualifications I had gained from Sri Lanka. All those who come to Italy from other countries only get to do minor jobs. I too had to work in homes, restaurants and other menial jobs. It was a very tough time. Then I got a job as an assistant at a modeling agency, where I worked for two years. Then I got a job as a caretaker of an apartment complex. That was a good break for me and I worked there for 18 years.

However, in 2007 I lost that job. Then I returned to Sri Lanka in 2007 and engaged in business.”

Having married a Philippine lady as he arrived in Italy initially, they have one daughter who had completed her initial studies in Italy and moved to London for higher education. She is currently married to a Sri Lankan.

This is what he had to say about his election win. “After 10 years of holding Italian citizenship, one can become a public representative. But, here its not like Sri Lanka. One must have studied political science to get into politics. My biggest challenge was the language and how to use it comprehensively. I attended classes in order to study these subjects. Otherwise, no one would have voted for me.”

“The Italian Democratic Party is a leftist party. There is also an association formed by the Sri Lankans here known as the People’s public centre.”

This association maintains links with the Democratic Party and the party had notified that several migrants will be given the chance to contest. There were many who came forward from the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, several African countries and Latin American countries. However, I was fortunate to receive nominations. There were four others from various countries that also contested this election.

I contested from the Lombardy province, which is a very wealthy province. They did not have much regard for the leftist ideologies and we knew that. But we contested legally. Unlike in Sri Lanka there is no prolonged rallies and you don’t have to spend millions.

All I had to do was print my election manifesto and distribute it among the people. It only cost me 450 Euros, which is around 85,000. Our party gained 30% of the votes. Had the other minor parties not got such a low percentage, we could have joined up and won, but that is another fascinating story.”

“Although there was an election on March 24, there was no loud sounds. Even if you win, you cannot make much noise. For example, if I were to meet the Health Minister at a shop to buy my bread, he would have to stand behind me if he came after me. Just because he is the minister he would not get any preferential treatment,” explained Niranjan, next talking of his future plans.

“Whatever happens, Sri Lanka is my country of birth and I will return when I reach retirement. I love Sri Lanka, but I will never be able to enter Sri Lanka’s mudslinging politics,” he said.

“In Sri Lanka, an election means causing a huge din but in Italy it is quite different. In fact a foreigner cannot even think of entering Sri Lankan politics, but in Italy, even foreigners have the opportunity and this is certainly a privilege.”


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