Day before yesterday, Malaysians everywhere celebrated Hari Kebangsaan 2016, also known as Independence Day or Hari Kemerdekaan. This year’s theme of ‘Sehati Sejiwa’ is a reflection of the Government’s continued commitment to maintain harmony, unity and solidarity among the people of Malaysia of diverse ethnic groups, cultures and religions.

The theme transcends religion, ethnicity and political affiliation. The day celebrates the spirit of patriotism and nationalism in all Malaysians that has enabled our forefathers to gain our independence and bring forth peace, stability, prosperity and a brighter future for generations to come.

However, certain quarters especially from Sabah and Sarawak feels that August 31 is the day the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from the British colonial masters and that the celebration has nothing to do with commemorating the ‘independence’ of Sabah and Sarawak.

Historical documents have proven that the new federation of Malaysia comprising of the Federation of Malaya, Sarawak, North Borneo (renamed Sabah) and Singapore was officially declared and penned on the 16 September 1963. Prior to that, as part of the transition from British administration, Sarawak gained its “independence” on July 22, 1963, while Sabah began its transition on Aug 31, 1963, the same day as the peninsula’s independence.

Historical facts aside, the government acknowledges the fact that 31st August and 16th September are two separate but very important dates in the history of Malaysia. Hence, since 2010, Malaysia celebrated both ‘Hari Kemerdekaan’ and ‘Hari Malaysia’ as a national holiday.

It has enabled Malaysians everywhere to celebrate the spirit of 1Malaysia and foster unity and goodwill throughout the country. We even have a month long celebration planned yearly, filled with concerts, events, carnivals and other exciting and fun activities nationwide, not to mention the eagerly awaited Mega Sale Carnival, just to celebrate the month of Merdeka and Hari Malaysia.

We Malaysians are world famous for its holidays, multiracial and religious events and celebrations. We are known to be one of the most peace-loving, multicultural and diverse nation.

It is baffling that there are some groups and individuals that are keen on sowing the seeds of mistrust and hatred amongst Sabahan and Sarawakians against fellow Malaysians just because they want to gain some political mileage. Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen asked Sarawakians not to celebrate August 31 as it is only for Semenanjungs.

Isn’t Semenanjungs or Malayas Malaysians too? It is worrying to note that such hatred is being spread through social media, with certain facts taken out of context and shared repeatedly creating uneasiness among Malaysians.

We Malaysians should be wise and rational enough not to buy into such propaganda. We must reject such negativity, extremism and radicalism that threatens the very fabric of Malaysia as we know it.

Malaysians have been celebrating and embracing the spirit of Malaysia since before 1957. Our forefathers have lived in harmony regardless of race and religion. Why should we start to shun our neighbours, friends and families just because of the colour of their skin or who they pray to? Why should we listen to those few whose aims and purpose are to tear Malaysia apart?

We celebrate because we want to remember and give our respects to those before us that has given their all in building the nation. We celebrate because we want to embrace the spirit of oneness. We celebrate because WE ARE MALAYSIANS.