Sri Lanka tells foreign aid agencies to scale down

July 9, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has directed all international relief agencies, including the Red Cross, to scale down operations following the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels, the human rights minister said Thursday. Mahinda Samarasinghe said the directive was not solely aimed at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which had first revealed the order to cut back on its work.

“We have not specifically targeted the ICRC. It is something we have told all international agencies,” Samarasinghe told AFP.

“Since there is no more fighting now, we have told them and others that they should scale down their work. It is a decision we took after careful consideration,” he added.

The ICRC handled, among other things, the swapping of dead bodies of combatants and also manned entry and exit points from the rebel-held territory before it was finally overrun by government forces in mid-May.

Samarasinghe stressed that Sri Lanka still needed help from international aid agencies to carry out relief operations for some 300,000 civilians displaced by the fighting with Tamil rebels.

“What we are looking for is to add value to what we are doing,” he said. “We have told all foreign relief organ