Keenie Meenie: Britain's Private Army
A documentary by Phil Miller and Lou MacNamara
Yardstick Films 2020
Length: 54 minutes
A new documentary by Phil Miller and Lou MacNamara shows how British mercenary company Keenie Meenie Services (KMS) trained the Special Task Force (STF), a notoriously violent Sri Lankan paramilitary force responsible for the torture and murder of Tamil civilians. On one occasion, in 1987, the STF massacred 85 civilians.
KMS pilots also flew helicopter gunships which bombed Tamil villages and machine-gunned Tamil civilians.
The company recruited former British special forces personnel and acted with the support and approval of the British government. However the fact that KMS was a private company helped the British government to hide its role in the war. The filmmakers call this "plausible deniability".
KMS began training the STF in 1984. The Sri Lankan government was trying to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who, in response to decades of discrimination, repression and massacres, were fighting for an independent Tamil homeland. Sri Lankan commanders told the filmmakers that KMS played a crucial role in helping the government win the war.
Some former KMS personnel felt guilty about their role: one helicopter pilot told how he opened fire on a school, and how his gunner fired on a bus full of civilians.
Other interviewees included a doctor who treated torture victims and a priest who described how people were burnt to death by the STF.
KMS was also involved in the United States government's clandestine war against Nicaragua. When this was publicly exposed, KMS was dissolved, but was replaced by a similar company, Saladin. The London police recently launched a war crimes investigation against KMS.
The STF remains in existence. It has received training in crowd control from the Scottish police. The film shows the STF violently repressing a protest by Sri Lankan medical students.
The film also reports that the STF has been accused of involvement in mob attacks on Muslims.