Meanwhile Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman said the state's "greatest success" was human capital development via the establishment of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) in 1994.
The decision which led to the formation of a new constitution at federal and state level had brought progress currently enjoyed by Sabahans.
Najib listed three things that proved that the decision by Sabah is correct.
“Firstly, although separated by the South China Sea, we feel very close to each other. I feel close to the hearts of Sabahans.
“Deputy Prime Minister (Tan Sri) Muhyiddin Yassin, federal ministers and government officials from peninsula feel they are accepted as a large family,” he said at 50 Years Malaysia Day celebration of Sabah in Malaysia in Taman Prince Philip, Tanjung Aru here last night.
Also present were his wife, Rosmah Mansor, Muhyiddin, Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman and his spouse Faridah Tussin and Minister of Communications and Multimedia Ahmad Shabery Cheek.
Najib said although Malaysians in Sabah and the peninsular have different dialects, it did not stop them from strengthening ties and understanding to form a united nation.
“We differ in terms of pronunciation. In peninsular, we say ‘tetap’ but in Sabah, they say ‘tatap’.
“What is important is inside the heart, the blood flowing in our body and the soul cannot be separated,” he added.
He said secondly, the people’s unity forged over 50 years managed to deflect threats from within and outside the country in defence of national sovereignty.
For example, when members of security were killed by foreign intruders in Lahad Datu, none of their children, wives and family members questioned why the they were killed on the battle field.
Thirdly, Sabah had undergone drastic change which saw the 58.3 percent poverty rate in 1976 dropped to 19.7 per cent in 2009 and declined to 8.1 percent in 2012.
“Insya Allah, the Sabah poverty rate in 2018 will be reduced to 3 percent,” Najib said.
Meanwhile Musa said Sabah had achieved progress and development because of its “good ties” with the federal government.
“The good ties and cooperation between the state government and the federal government allow various agenda and development programmes to be implemented successfully,” he said
Musa said Sabahans had made a wise and bold decision to become a close friend in building the new nation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963.
“On this date 50 years ago, Padang Bandar Jesselton what is now Padang Merdeka Kota Kinabalu was the venue of a historic rally to mark the declaration of independence of Sabah in Malaysia.
“It was witnessed by (Datuk Seri) Najib’s father, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, along with Sabah leaders Tun Mustapha and Tun Fuad Stephens. After 50 years, (Datuk Seri) Najib is the witness to the Malaysia Day Golden Jubilee celebration.”
He said the development not only changed the state’s landscape but also enhanced the wellbeing and quality of life of Sabahans.
“Indeed, our situation today is much better than some countries of the same age, or even countries that achieved independence much earlier.
The greatest success was human capital development via the establishment of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) in 1994 which produced over 35,000 graduates in various fields.
Musa was proud of the unity of Sabahans and grateful to the prime minister for recognising Sabah as example of the 1 Malaysia community comprising over 32 tribes and ethnic groups.
“Sabah will continue to achieve Unity in Diversity to answer the call and vision of the honourable Prime Minister.”
Grateful for the presence of Najib and Muhyiddin, he said the state government is committed to its vision and mission to enhance Sabah in terms of reserves and provide infrastructure to boost and become a progressive state.
“This includes political empowerment based on the concept of democracy and power sharing.
On the economic front we have a solid foundation. What we need to do is combine the modern economy and the traditional economy while expanding the economy based on new resources.”
He thanked the federal government on the establishment of the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) and welcomed the five strategies to enhance Bumiputera participation in the transformation process of national development including the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP ) mooted by Najib.