Sri Lanka tightens grip on foreign aid workers: officials

November 10, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s government said Wednesday it had ordered foreign and local aid workers to register with the defence ministry in a move to put them under greater state control. The government information department said there were 250 international and some 1,000 domestic aid agencies working in Sri Lanka, which would now have to obtain approval from the defence ministry following a change in the law.

It added that the ministry — which is headed by the president’s brother — will also process foreign aid workers’ visa applications which must be made through the newly established National Secretariat for NGOs.

Sri Lankan authorities have long been suspicious of international and local non-government agencies, which were sometimes seen as sympathising with the rebel Tamil Tigers during the country’s 37-year civil war.

The conflict ended in May last year when the rebels were wiped out in a military campaign that has since been dogged by allegations of war crimes, which the government denies.

Independent media and aid groups have been kept out of the conflict zone in the north and east of the country.

The National Secretariat for Non-Governmental O