East Malaysians will not celebrate August 31 Merdeka Day in a big way, just as West Malaysians are apathetic towards Sept 16.
But because of politics, Sept 16 is now celebrated on both sides of the South China Sea, and the national day celebrations will only end after this.
Although East and West Malaysia are one country, differences between the two places are vast. West Malaysia is economically more developed, with more comprehensive infrastructure while many interior areas in East Malaysia are still devoid of water and electricity supplies.
On the eve of Malaysia Day, the police detained three Malaysian men for inciting Sabah's secession from the federation, and this has served to remind the federal government of the appeals of East Malaysians for fairer treatment.
In a bid to win over the hearts of voters, the opposition parties in Sabah have advocated sovereignty and confrontation against West Malaysian regime, which has a certain market in the East Malaysian state but the same has also aggravated the conflicts between Sabah and Putrajaya.
The frustration of the opposition and civil rights organisations in the state could be traced back to Umno's advances into Sabah in 1990 on the excuse of "teaching PBS a lesson." Since then Sabah has been locked in a fierce political confrontation as well as other issues such as illegal migrants getting ICs and citizenships.
Although the federal government has stepped up marine surveillance after the Sulu intrusion into Lahad Datu, many Sabahans believe the chaos was caused by the federal government's lax migrant policy.
In addition, sovereignty awareness has also been on the rise in neighbouring Sarawak. The Sarawak state legislative assembly passed the resolution to call for 20 per cent oil royalty in May, and the federal government finally agreed to offer the shares of Petronas' subsidiary as compensation, which was far from what had been expected from them. Oil royalty will continue to stand as a key political issue in East Malaysia.
As a matter of fact, the conflicts between East and West Malaysia can be resolved through political solutions. The biggest crisis lies with the lack of common values between them, especially the thinking of West Malaysia's ruling parties doesn't seem to fit into that of their eastern counterparts.
For instance Christians in East Malaysia are unhappy with the way West Malaysian political parties have been handling the Bible issue, and this is bound to further disrupt the harmonious integration between Malaysians on both sides.
Joseph Kurup, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of national unity has said, West Malaysians should learn the merits of tolerance and racial harmony from the people in Sabah and Sarawak
Indeed, our ethnic politics have incurred a lot of problems and East Malaysia must do everything to prevent such a political culture from infiltrating into their states.
Contemplating the issues between East and West Malaysia on Malaysia Day is like seeing the current dilemma in this country. While there are indeed differences between East and West Malaysia, there are real concerns of cracks between races and religions on this side of the country.
Malaysia is a highly complicated country with her people living in very different community and family backgrounds. We have people taking part in the jihad in Syria and Iraq, as we;; as people defending vernacular education in the approach prevalent in the 1950s and 60s.
Even within the government we see now confrontation between the more liberal and conservative. Judging from arrests of academicians, journalists and human rights lawyers in recent weeks, we could see that the rightists now have the upper hand.
With conservative voices getting louder by the day, the moderation approach which we used to pride ourselves in has come under assault, especially in view of the rapidly disseminating information thanks to the Internet and compromised judgmental abilities of the people, the solidarity among Malaysians is at stake.
The many conflicts in this country have not been caused by our diversity and plurality but rather the narrow-minded people who care only their own interests without taking into account the needs of other compatriots.
While a country can still afford to have diversity and flourish, the people must have some common values. If such common values do not exist between East and West Malaysia, there is no way for this country to achieve real solidarity. And the government must be really fair to everyone so that a common understanding could be established among the people.