Malaysia is under extreme attack coming from the West. Shortly after it deported a senior Western diplomat, came this current standoff affecting the Southernmost portion of its territory. This issue can be described as "incendiary", even "destabilizing" because it revives the age-old issue of the Philippine claim to Sabah, or be technical about it, the claims of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo to this huge parcel of land.
Malaysia is a republic which is only united by agreement of various sultans and datus. If, say, a datu who owns a part of Malaysia decides to separate from the republic, it is his choice.
In truth, Sabah does not truly belong to the Malaysians simply because that 77,000 square kilometers of land belong to the Sultan of Sulu by right. Historical records clearly show that it was being "leased" by Malaysia and the Malaysian government still gives cession fees to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu.
The complication arises from the GRP-MILF peace agreement. If the GRP-MILF panel includes Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi among the areas within the scope of the agreement, then, it follows that the lands being claimed by the Sultan comes within what the Philippine government claims to own, which, to my mind, complicates the matter further. If the so-called Bangsamoro territory includes these three island groups, then, by rationale, it should likewise include Sabah, since this parcel of land is also, by historic right and title, belongs to the Sultanate.
This agreement will also undermine the very legitimacy of the Sultanate since this presumes that the Sultanate accedes to all the terms and agreements entered into by the GRP with that of the MILF. It appears that the Sultanate is a separate juridical entity; hence, should be consulted to by the GRP especially this issue of delineating or determining the territorial boundaries of the Bangsamoro sub-state. Without their participation, the agreement will definitely encounter tough waters.