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The stories of Fijian soldiers who responded to a call to assist Malaysia during the Malayan Emergency will finally be captured and stored through a documentary titled “Back to Batu Pahat”.
The participation of the Fijian troops who were stationed in the Malayan village of Batu Pahat has been told and retold and verbally transmitted from one generation to another in Fiji. It is very close to the hearts of Fijians and is part of Fiji’s proud military heritage. However, very little has been done to protect and safeguard this heritage and the passage of time has seen the decline in the number of Fijian soldiers that fought during the Emergency. This will now be realised following the signing of the MOU between Malaysia and Fiji.
Representing the Malaysian Government was the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) while the Fiji High Commission in Kuala Lumpur represented the Fijian Government. At the signing were the FINAS Director General, Mr. Raja Rozaimie Raja Dalnish Shah and Charge D’affaires with the Fiji High Commission, Mr. Pita Tagicakirewa. The signing took place on 28th January at the FINAS HQ.
Fiji’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ratu Meli Bainimarama who is currently in Fiji attending a number of investment meetings could not hide his delight on what he considers a very important and significant milestone for the Fijian Government.
“Back to Batu Pahat will explore the role Fijian Troops played during the Malayan Emergency. The troops and the type of activities they conducted during the Emergency both in the field of battle where they proved to be a courageous force to be reckoned with, to how the Malaysian culture impacted the soldiers and how that in turn contributed to the culture back in Fiji.”
“During the 4 years of Fijian involvement, some 1,600 Fijian troops served from 1952 to 1956. The First of which to arrive being the 1Bn FIR, of this force, some 25 Fijian troops paid the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives in combat operations in the jungles and plantations of Malaya”.
“Friendships on and off the battle field developed between the two nation. Tthe first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman became a strong friend and mentor to Ratu Sir Edward Cakobau, who was a much loved commander of the Fijian Battalion, and who later went on to become the Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji and whose son Brigadier General Ratu Epeli Nailatikau is now the current President of Fiji”, said High Commissioner Bainimarama.
The documentary will feature in-depth interviews supporting the main story of following the returning soldiers back to Batu Pahat. Coupled with historically accurate re-enactments, rare footage of the Fijian and Commonwealth troops during the period will make for a world-class production which will capture this important chapter of both nations’ history.
“This agreement between FINAS and the Fijian Government is in line with our strategic direction to increase the number of co-productions with international parties. It will allow Malaysian productions to enter international markets which in turn raise the level of income within the local industry.”
“We can not underestimate the importance of these productions as a way to build relationships which are so often the precursor greater colloboration between countries, especially in the areas of business and education.”
“Malaysia is at the crossroads of many great civilizations; the role Malaysia has played intersects some of the great moments in history, we need to tell these stories so that Malaysians can better understand their place in the world and as a matter of national pride, only then can we decide what role we will play in future”.
“I am personally interested in the closeness between the populations of the two countries, both geneticly and lingustically which must stretch back thousands of years, as there are several words shared words in both languages, so we might be closer than we think.” Stated Raja Rozaimie Raja Dalnish Shah, Director General of FINAS.
Also present at the signing ceremony was Executive Producer, Nordin Abdullah of Tanah Rata Filem Sdn. Bhd. a boutique documentary production house who will be producing Back to Batu Pahat which is due to be released by the end of the year.
High Commissioner Bainimarama had earlier signed the MOU between Fiji and Tanah Rata Filem on 14th January before departing for Fiji.
“As Executive Producer of this project I am humbled to be given the opportuntiy to work on such an important documentary knowing full well that we owe the freedoms that we enjoy today in part to the bravery and sacrifice of these men”, stated Nordin Abdullah, the Managing Director of Tanah Rata Filem.
“As the curtain was drawn on the greatest conflict in human history, World War II, the historical, political and military forces were at play that would set the stage for the battle to define the future of the Malayan Peninsular. What is exciting is that the story of the Fijian troops has yet to be told,” explained Nordin Abdullah.