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Sri Lanka has always been suspicious of foreign aid groups

[Times Online UK, Monday, 6 July 2009 06:56 No Comment]

Sri Lanka has always had a tricky relationship with the foreign aid groups that have helped it through natural disasters and 26 years of civil war with the Tamil Tigers.

The hostility has been rooted in suspicions that aid groups secretly backed the Tigers, because most of them worked in rebel territory.

Those suspicions were compounded by the corruption and inefficiency of some NGOs after the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. But antagonism towards the foreign aid community reached a climax during the army’s last, victorious three-year campaign against the Tigers.

In August 2006, 17 local employees of Action against Hunger, a French aid group, were shot dead at close range near the eastern city of Trincomalee. Although the Government and the army deny any role, many aid workers remain convinced that one or other was involved.

Last September the Government ordered all aid groups out of Tamil areas in the north. It has not allowed them back. Now it is weeding out veteran aid workers that it sees as pro-Tiger by a visa regime under which none can stay longer than three years.

It has refused to allow them unfettered access to the army-run camps, where they are trying to help almost 300,000 Tamil refugees. Now it is trying to tax their funding too.

[Full Coverage]

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