XENOPHOBIA rules supreme in Sri Lanka's climate of suspicion, doubt and distrust. Even foreign aid agencies, clamouring to help in the war-ravaged north of the country, are told to mind their own business. A weekend editorial in one of the country's English-language newspapers called for all foreigners to leave Sri Lanka - a worthy attempt at rallying the cause of nationalism, but one that rings hollow against a background of Government bungling. Unlike most governments facing a crisis, the Sri Lankan administration has not turned to the outside world for help. Instead it has instituted a state of containment and treats no news as good news. It insists on being the controlling player in the distribution of aid right down to searching the United Nations' trucks for so-called contraband such as batteries and fuel which could be slipped to the rebel Tamil soldiers. Exactly why the UN would suddenly become a smuggler of goods and jeopardise its reputation is unclear, but the Government insists it should be strictly monitored. The same goes for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Medicins Sans Frontieres and the Save the Children Fund who are also operating in the north under Government direction. The administration will not accept that these organisations operate much better without the Government looking over their shoulders and insisting they take in only what is authorised. Foreigners, including foreign journalists, are regarded as spies for even wanting to be near anything remotely associated with the military. The north is essentially a no-go zone for outsiders with the only photographs and footage coming from the Ministry of Defence. The Government rejects claims that it is hiding something by allowing no independent coverage of the northern region. Meanwhile, it is kept busy manning a system of hundreds of military and police checkpoints throughout the country which any self-respecting Tamil Tiger could easily by-pass. The Tigers, naturally, continue their campaign of ambushing police officers and civilians in the soft underbelly of eastern Sri Lanka while the defence forces attempt to take the northern stronghold of Jaffna. Even if Jaffna falls and the psychological advantage of seizing the city is won, the war will be far from over unless foreign assistance and foreign business is actively welcomed rather than shunned. An infrastructure of roads, communications and worthwhile security is a must if the siege mentality Sri Lankans live with every day is to be removed.