Today Malaysia is 49 years old and many citizens, especially Sarawakians and Sabahans, are thinking aloud, so what? Apart from being a gazetted public holiday which the working class appreciate there is no celebration. It will pass, as it has passed for the past 48 years, as a day of insignificance and always foreshadowed by Merdeka, the independence day of Malaya.
The difference between Malaya and Malaysia is the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak into Malaya to form a larger nation. This was extracted from Wikipedia,
On 31 August 1963 North Borneo attained transitional administration to prepare for a merger with the Federation of Malaysia. 1962, the Cobbold Commission was set up to determine whether the people of Sabah and Sarawak favoured the proposed union, and found that the union was generally favoured by the people. Most ethnic community leaders of Sabah, namely, Tun Mustapha representing the Muslims, Tun Fuad Stephens representing the non-Muslim natives, and Khoo Siak Chew representing the Chinese, would eventually support the formation. On 16 September 1963 North Borneo, as Sabah, was united with Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore, to form the independent Federation of Malaysia.
You can read more HERE and HERE.
Malaya achieved independence from the British on 31.8.1957. Singapore achieved the same on 31.8.1963 and joined Malaya together with Sabah and Sarawak on 16.9.1963 to form Malaysia but was expelled 2 years later for reasons given in Wikipedia below.
On 31 August 1963, Singapore declared independence from Britain and joined with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form the new Federation of Malaysia as the result of the 1962 Merger Referendum. Singaporean leaders joined Malaysia for various reasons. Firstly, as a small country, they did not believe that the British would find it viable for Singapore to become independent by itself. Secondly, they also did not believe that Singapore could survive on its own, due to scarcity of land, water, markets and natural resources. And lastly, the Singapore government wanted the help of the Malaysian government to flush out the Communists. The two years that Singapore spent as part of Malaysia were filled with strife and bitter disagreements. The Malaysians insisted on a pro-Malay society, where Malays were given special Bumiputera rights, which still exist to this day. The Malaysians were also suspicious about Singapore's majority of ethnic Chinese and worried that Singapore's economic clout would shift the centre of power from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. There were also linguistic and religious issues. The Singaporeans, on the other hand, wanted an equal and meritocratic society, where all citizens were given equal rights. As part of Malaysia, Singapore's economic and social development came to a halt as the Malaysian parliament blocked many bills. Race riots broke out in Singapore in 1964. After much heated ideological conflicts between the two governments, in 1965, the Malaysian parliament voted 126 to 0 to expel Singapore from Malaysia.
But the administrations of Sabah and Sarawak, being of a different outlook, stayed. 49 years later many Sabahans and Sarawakians must be wondering if the decision to join with Malaya was wise, given that their states were not given opportunities to grow as much as their sister states in peninsula Malaysia. Many even felt exploited and Sabahans generally think they are today overwhelmed by legalized illegal immigrants. It is too late to change history. Had the 3 states of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, chosen to unite instead and form a new federation, there would not be a Malaysia today and Malaya would have a new and even more powerful and more developed neighbor to her south. And who knows if Malaya would be as developed and prosperous as she is today as Malaysia. Indeed history would have been rewritten and lives of millions of people changed. And we, in visiting Sabah next week, will be having an oversea holiday instead, and using our passports to enter it.