Aid workers blame bureaucracy for growing struggle to help Sri Lankans

PARIS, Dec 7, 2006 (AFP) – Western aid groups warned of a growing struggle to help Sri Lankan victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami and of the country’s war, four months after the massacre of 17 aid workers, and blamed bureaucracy for blocking their work. “The humanitarian situation is catastrophic,” said Aloysius John, head of Asia for the French Secours Catholique, adding that his group can no longer work in northern Sri Lanka, particularly in Jaffna where thousands of people lack provisions after the main access road was cut off.

British NGO Oxfam said work had become “extremely difficult” to help victims of the December 2004 tsunami that killed 31,000 people and destroyed 75 percent of coastal infrastructure.

Nordic monitors of a truce signed in February 2002 between the army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) say the ceasefire is holding only on paper.

The LTTE has been fighting for independence for the island’s minority 2.5 million Tamil community in the majority Sinhalese nation of 19.5 million people.

At least 3,400 people have been reported killed in the conflict this year.

Amid fighting between security forces and Tiger rebels, the 17 mostly Tamil aid workers from Action Contre la Faim (ACF) were shot d