People from Sabah wave Malaysian flags during the Malaysia Day celebrations in 2012. [Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters]

Sarawak, Malaysia – As Malaysia celebrated its 56th birthday last month, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad addressed the Southeast Asian nation’s two culturally-distinct and increasingly assertive Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak, a two-hour flight across the South China Sea from the seat of government in Putrajaya.

The veteran politician talked of Malaysia as “one big family” and said the government was committed to reviewing the implementation of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement that established the new nation of Malaysia.

As an indication of the federal government’s commitment, the islands of Sipadan and Ligitan, would be returned to Sabah’s control, he added.

“We hope the people and leaders of these two

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