Ten Million Strong: ABC press release

An ABC film team has returned to Sydney after spending two months in the countries which became the Federation of Malaysia on September 16

October 1963

AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING COMMISSION

Press Release – for immediate publication.

ABC TEAM COMPLETES MALAYSIA FILM

An ABC film team has returned to Sydney after spending two months in the countries which became the Federation of Malaysia on September 16.

The team was led by producer John Gray and writer John Crew. They had previously spent six weeks surveying the region.

Their film will be the ABC’s third contribution to Intertel.

The team filmed in all four States which make up the new nation-Malaya, Singapore, Sabah (North Borneo) and Sarawak.

Political leaders interviewed included the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman; the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew and the leader of the Singapore Opposition Socialist Party, Lee Siew Cho.

The interviews indicated that one of Malaysia’s major difficulties are the tensions between Malays and Chinese.

Speakers pointed to the delicate racial balance of the 10 million population – 41 per cent Chinese, 43 per cent Malay and indigenous people, and six per cent Indian and other minorities.

Wherever the team went, hard-working Chinese dominated internal trade, and the flourishing building industry; although visits to rubber plantations and tin dredging plants indicated that these are still controlled by British Interests.

Many Chinese interviewed said they were perturbed by the racial discrimination practised against them, especially in the civil service.

The film explores the differing cultures of the racial groups, – Chinese ancestor worship in Singapore; witchcraft in North Malaya; Indian community living in the great plantations; – the King of Malaysia worshipping at a Mosque at the New Malay University.

The team followed a young Iban (Sea Dyak) tribesman, newly graduated from a teachers’ college, deep into the rain forests of Sarawak, where the Ibans still live in communal long-houses. Travel is possible only by plane and outboard powered longboats.

The film men lived with the Ibans in a long-house for two weeks, filming a way of life which, apart from the abolition of head hunting, has changed little in a 1,000 years. The team ate Iban food, slept beneath rafters decorated with dried human skulls.

Ibans have little concept of government but they voted for Malaysia, as did the Chinese timber millionaire who lives in splendour in the timber town of Sibu, on the Rejang River.

Wherever the film-makers went there were two problems – language and luggage. Even in comparatively civilised areas communication was difficult and in primitive areas the only successful language was by signs.

For many sequences equipment was hauled or transported by boat, so that everything had to be stripped to its essentials.

Back in Australia, the film editors are faced with selecting from a remarkably diverse collection of film segments those which could most truly reflect the hopes and tensions of a new nation.

October 8, 1963.

ABC
Box 487, GPO
SYDNEY
AUSTRALIA

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