Groundviews caught up with Callum McCrae, Director of the highly controversial and very disturbing film by Channel 4, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, in New York, a day before the film was due to be screened for senior diplomats, UN staff and others at the Church Centre, in front of the UN Headquarters. Callum was joined by Marion Bentley, Channel 4’s Publicity Manager.

The interview is around 43 minutes. Download the MP3 (~51Mb) of this interview here to listen offline. This podcast is anchored to the following questions.

General

  • What was your objective in doing the C4 video now, more than 2 years after the end of the war?
  • Killing of unarmed civilians, collateral damage, has occurred in other wars, other contexts British troops have been involved in? Has C4 covered them in as great detail?
  • What is accountability for you? Do they think the video will help in achieving accountability in the SL case? How so?
  • Who is your primary audience for the documentary? Why?
  • What do you expect the viewers to do? Is the video empowering or overwhelming? There has been criticism that the video is so visceral, it takes away from the viewer taking any action.
  • Do you believe a video such as what they produced will help those who were directly affected by the conflict and remain in SL?
  • Have you spoken to any in SL before or after the video was made public? What has been the reaction?
  • Do you have any future plans to work on similar videos or other initiatives regarding SL? If so, what?
  • What do you make of the Government of Sri Lanka’s response to this documentary?
  • What responses have they received from diaspora communities?
  • Why are you here in New York?
  • Where else do you intend to show the film?

The video footage

  • Why, with all the footage of supposed aftermaths, is there not a single frame of an Army shell or Sri Lanka Airforce bomb actually hitting a civilian target?
  • Why did C4 only showed the footage of naked female bodies and held back the ones of males. Ethics of selection?

On the interviews

  • There are no interviews of anyone from the two warring militaries – the LTTE or the SL Armed Forces. Why?
  • Why are there no interviews with anyone with an opposing or neutral viewpoint, even legal analysts, political commentators, military historians, etc.
  • No expert witnesses were interviewed on military tactics or on the claims about deliberate targeting by artillery. Gordon Weiss book and the Convoy 11 incident.
  • Ask him why former IDPs were not asked about what the LTTE were doing – child conscription, slave labour, human shields, etc or about their attempts to flee the Tigers. Or on their treatment by the Army when they did escape.

On the commentary in the video

  • Some have pointed to a very large credibility gap between the footage and the commentary. E.g.: the commentary claimed the naked corpses had been raped even though there was no easily visible sign of any abuse on the bodies (so how did you know?); the men doing the killing in the execution clips were identified as soldiers even though there was no overt indication of it.
  • In the opening credits / introduction, Jon Snow claims the UN panel has evidence when the panel report doesn’t say it does (credible allegations vs. evidence).
  • Personal reflections on the making and final broadcast of the video.
  • Do you ever want to come to Sri Lanka?
  • MV

    While Channel 4 threw some light into what was essentially a “war without witness”, the international community knew very well then what was going on yet stayed silent – the US had satellite imagery and India was kept updated about the situation. It is beyond doubt that Sri Lanka committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and there are ample evidence but whether or not there will be prosecution in the international courts will depend on how willing these powers are (US, India) – and we all know why an international investigation hasn’t materialized yet, with the complicity of IC in war crimes.

  • silva

    This is less gruesome than Bindunuwewa and Galoya massacres.

  • silva

    Could I post this audio clip in youtube? Any copyrights restrictions?

    • No copyright or restrictions, but attribution to source URL much appreciated. Thank you.

  • ravana

    Thank you groundviews for ongoing wonderful expose which is occurring on this site.

    WRT Issapriya being an LTTE member even though the producer of Ch4 had to defend what was on the video, I would contend, so what if she was an LTTE cadre? Does that justify her rape (well at least sexual molestation (even if it was done by a necrophiliac) , probable torture and murder?
    I think not!

    Once again, the producer defends the genuine nature of the video footage (hardly needed even though I understand the context in which this interview occurred) but quite rightly questions why the Sri Lankan Military does not investigate the questions raised by the programme.

    Thank you again for giving the opportunity for the producer of Ch4 to rebut, stupid and insensitive comments by viewers, questions which would be confined to a defending lawyer who is obliged to ask, but not from someone claiming to be a Sri Lankan patriot. A patriot would not ask such a question. In particular, it was good to see him rebut the most stupid question of all (“why don’t you report on UK, US war crimes in Iraq?”)

    The producer makes a last comment that he wished he did not have to show the video. But I strongly disagree. We need to obtain this video and make it a compulsory part of the curriculum in all school children above the age of 16, as a lesson of history repeating itself even nearly 70 years after the horrors of the holocaust of WWII. Sri Lankan children must be asked to view this video in particular, so that they learn never to deny injustice when it is obvious. I know why it is necessary because my generation growing up in a different country had to view the atrocities against the Jews by the Nazis. This is what occurs in western countries in order to sensitise its modern generations against tolerating atrocities. Because, they never want a repeat of that episode ever again. The fact Armies, whether Sri Lankan or British never learn is another matter which is a topic for another time. But what is disgusting is the propensity of the Sri Lankan public to defend crimes committed by at least individuals of the army. The evidence is however, that highly placed people were complicit in crimes.

    Lastly, I seem to have missed the name of the General referred to in the video! Who was it? I can review the video, but would appreciate someone telling me.

    • Dedan Kemathi

      Dear MV

      “The evidence is however, that highly placed people were complicit in crimes. ” Can you please elaborate on this statement. Do you mean to say higher echelons of power in Sri Lanka encouraged war crimes the same way Hutu power militias or Serbian militias were directed by those countries’ leadership ? Was there coded messages to incite ethnic cleansing like in Rwanda? where is the smoking gun ? Or are they really individuals acting at the moment ?
      Highly appreciate your detailed response in this regard.

    • Dhathusena

      I will be surprised if you are so strong in publishing this if any of the dead are happened to be related to you.Think about Isapryia.Her naked body is displayed around the world and that is the most disgraceful thing one can do to a dead woman.I cannot agree displaying some other country’s dead women in the way channel 4 did as ethical.If the dead women were western it would have never happened.Disgraceful act by channel 4.

  • It’s not downloadable.

  • british troops in afganistan was done more war crimes . but no channel-4 killing field callum macre is afraid to mi-6

    • Do try to listen to and understood Callum’s answer to the second question.

  • Thambi

    Why has my comment not been posted where I question Callum’s intelligence?

    I skipped through this pointless interview.

    A few things:

    He fails to understand the question about shells being caught on camera (instead of what could be its aftermath)
    He claims all the videos have been authenticated but Channel 4 has only said it’s technically analysed the initial execution video.
    The Army soldiers have a special sinhala that can be understood by Callum’s 4 experts? He should reveal this part of his study to the general public.

    • jansee

      Thambi:

      You cannot even get the SL regime to release the report on the findings of the committe/commission set-up to investigate the recent death of Roshain Chanaka, that is within your distance but want to make an issue on a news channel thousands of miles away. What happened to the APRC report? What happened to this and what happened to that? Haven’t we reached a point that it has become innumerable that we just take it for granted that they are meant to fool the people? Please get the act at home right before accusing others – a good principle to learn, don’t you think so?

    • madayan

      A few missed opportunities; some follow up questions on the disconnect between the footage and commentary could have really made him squirm.

      • I agree. McCrae lies on several counts, often blatantly, and it’s a pity that Sanjana didn’t press him harder on these points, since we have the film on record. But I guess this isn’t Hard Talk 😉

        McCrae lies about having footage of shells and bombs hitting civilian targets. There isn’t a single frame in the entire film.

        He lies again about the evidence of rape and sexual assault being visible on the bodies. If we can’t see it, how can he claim it’s there? He then quotes an anonymous pathologist, but for such experts to be credible, they must give on-camera statements.

        He also lies about Snow’s intro where he says that Snow didn’t claim that the UN panel has evidence of war crimes. He then reads out Snow’s CLOSING statement to Sanjana!

        He also dodges the question about the naked bodies, but that’s partly the phrasing of the question gave him that loophole. There were certainly naked male bodies shown, but only clips of female bodies being disposed of is shown.

        He then lies about the fact that often the females were naked while the men were clothed, which isn’t true when you view the film. I’m sure McCrae’s familiar enough with the footage not to make a mistake.

  • Excellent interview. This film is deeply damaging to SL and a brilliant piece of propaganda, because perceptions matter and Macrae’s film with Snow’s sly commentary (“this was an unequal war” – Snow probably wanted the LTTE to have its own jet fighters and tank battalions to protect Eelam) has now made this into SL’s My Lai.

    Some phrases from Macrae’s answers indicate that he’s a fully paid up member of the ‘something must be done’ brigade. “Right-minded people” , “international community”, “not even handed” … “something must be done”..” “justice must be done” and best of all “helping Sri Lanka to find democratic solutions”. Yeah, right. C4 and Macrae appear to have cornered the world’s supplies of moral righteousness.

    The best bit (for me) was when he waffled that he couldn’t find a representative of the LTTE to ask questions. And I thought McCullum was a fearless investigative filmmaker with extensive contacts 🙂 Couldn’t he get an interview with the TGTE or BTF?

    In his article in the Grauniad, he writes: ..“The brutal Sinhalese government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa..” that alone shows his (and C4’s) view point.
    http://tinyurl.com/62hndkg

    The onus is now on GoSL to circle the wagons and await the inevitable onslaught from Eelam Fluffers like Milliband and Gov and the ‘something must be done’ crowd. There’s nothing so nauseating as being lectured to by whiny Brits.

    Will the GoSL do what other countries in similar situations (e.g. Abu Ghraib) have done? Find and prosecute a few identifiable low rankers, reduce their sentences after 1-2 years and let them go.

  • ravana

    David Blacker,

    There is a worrying new item on Sri Lanka Guardian:

    http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2011/06/twelve-army-soldiers-in-channel-4-video.html

    In this it is claimed,

    “Twelve army soldiers who are in the two Channel 4 videos have been identified, a senior officer of the Sri Lanka Army said.

    He said that the identified army soldiers are from the Army’s Commando unit, Special Task Force and the 681st Brigade.

    Among those identified are several officers and soldiers. Even after being identified, the Defence Secretary has asked the Army Commander to keep a close watch on them without ordering any action against them.”

    Now, as I understand the commandos were under SF. Given the special relationship of Defence Secretary with SF, how are we to interpret this. Have they started a process of cynical investigation to betray innocent soldiers or is this fair dinkum. It seems things are beginning to unravel. The worry I have is that this yet another means to take revenge on SF faithful.

    • Ravana, the Commando Regiment and the Special Forces regiment are two different units. Both come under the Special Forces Brigade for administrative purposes. The Special Task Force (STF) is a police unit. As far as I know there is no special connection between Gotabhaya Rajapakse and the Special Forces. He was a Gajaba.

      If in fact soldiers have been identified, court martial proceedings should begin of course. This is what should have been done a long time ago.

      • ravana

        Sorry, I meant Sarath Fonseka when I said SF. I thought Commandos had been under his direct command. I know that GR was Gajaba. The special relationship between GR and SF was mentioned in a ironic vein. My worry is that innocent soldiers of the Commandos should not be targeted to get back at Sarath Fonseka (and political expediency). However, if they are guilty, then action should be taken no matter who they are.

      • Certain strategic elements of both the Commandos and Special Forces may have come directly under SF, but not as far as I know of.

    • yapa

      As per ravana’s post above;

      ““Twelve army soldiers who are in the two Channel 4 videos have been identified, a senior officer of the Sri Lanka Army said.”

      Now we really know this is not true. Another foul attempt like infamous “killing field” movie.

      Thanks!

  • sabbe laban

    Yako, Ravana, the great King

    It’s a shame machang, if this is the status quo! Why the hell didn’t they admit this earlier and make the matters easier for all of us.

    Was the King and his siblings consuming ‘madana modaka’ all this time?

  • Candidly

    It seems to me that Sri Lankans have to go on the offensive to deal with those who are trying to draw attention away from the crimes against humanity carried out over the years by the LTTE and its overseas supporters. This is being done by the LTTE supporters & apologists only raising the issue of allegations about possible atrocities during the last few months of a 33 year war, whilst ignoring the earlier years.

    To deal with this the rest of the world needs to be reminded of the history of the LTTE & its activities. One way to do that is for Sri Lanka, or some patriotic citizens, to commission their own documentary by one of Asia’s many excellent filmakers for distribution in the West & India. On this topic there was an excellent filmed history of the Tigers’ terrorist activities on one of the educational cable TV stations about 2 years ago – was it the History Channel?

    Many people may feel reluctant to take such action because it seems to be opening the wounds up again. But now they’ve already been re-opened and if something like this is not done Sri Lanka will be crucified in the international arena. The Tigers may have been beaten militarily for the present, but their remnants are now waging a propaganda war which needs to be defeated as decisively as was their military war. They are doing this by cultivating relationships with certain Western media organisations & the “human rights” industry who are always eager for new material.

    Media organisations such as Channel 4 don’t give a damn about Tamils, Sinhalese, Moslems or anyone except their own organisation. What they are interested in is viewing figures, advertising revenue, winning media awards, peer esteem, etc. Show them up to be incompetent & unprofessional and they will quickly crawl away, but unfortunately only to find other victims to feed on. Right now they think they are on a roll because they got lots of “juicy”, blood-curdling visual & spoken material from the LTTE western supporters and their hangers on and “media mercenaries” who are always hawking this sort of stuff.

    Sri Lankans, all communities collectively, must have a vast store of material which can be put together in a professional way to remind the West just what a vicious, sick, organisation the LTTE really was – and still is, if it got the chance to start active service again.

    At the same time Sri Lanka would be wise to initiate its own investigations into elements in the security forces (or attached to them) that may have committed atrocities, and to deal with them in the appropriate way. This, alone, would serve to drastically undermine any potential international action against Sri Lanka.

  • Rajeewa

    In addition to all the other issues already pointed out, the documentary was so well researched that it says Gotabhaya Rajapakse was the defence MINISTER!!!! See 41st minute. [Edited out.]

  • Alaya

    In SL, Sinhalese leftist groups terrorize the people and Gov in 1971 and 1988~89 period. SL Gov killed thousands of unarmed civilians at that time too. I don’t think any of those Sinhalese doubt these facts
    So I have no doubts about what gov military might have done in the last six months of SL Tamil struggle and even before the final stage. But unfortunately most of us Sinhalese have no enough brains think impartially

  • Kira

    Unable to see the video. Saw only on photo in this artical. We can write our ideas in word’s,But Members of the British parliament who up for re-election or what ever hasb there hand’s in a honey jar.No one want’s to find truth they just paint pictures the way they like.Killing fields are every where in the world today.War is a money and welth for few. Deth to a lot’s of people.All we can do find a way to pick up what ever left and live.No lessons learned from what happened. Never going to also. Stop spending on crappy projects like LLRC and such. Try control wepons flow to countries, If possible.People start war, People has to think give it up or continue!!!!!!!!!!!.We all have fifty to seventy years to think.

  • raj

    it is really hard to expect either UN or international community take actions against those who committed crimes against Tamils since they are the one who laid foundations for those crimes by their actions and words. The crimes that committed against in Sri Lanka is justifed crimes by Sinhalease and some of the big nations. Therefore, it will be hard to take actions against Sri Lanka since they are the one who laid foundation for the crimes.

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