SEA Games: Malaysia sorry for Indonesia flag gaffe

Kuala Lumpur has apologised to Jakarta over the Indonesian flag blunder in the SEA Games souvenir booklet. VIDEO: THE STAR
A copy of the SEA Games Opening Ceremony guidebook shows a misprinted Indonesian flag.
A copy of the SEA Games Opening Ceremony guidebook shows a misprinted Indonesian flag. PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK/AFP) -  Kuala Lumpur has apologised to Jakarta over the Indonesian flag blunder in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games souvenir booklet.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Malaysia regretted the error made by the Malaysian Organising Committee (Masoc) for the upside down publication of the republic’s flag in the booklet.

“On behalf of the Malaysian Government, we would like to extend our apology to the government and the people of the Republic of Indonesia,” he said in a statement on Sunday (Aug 20).

Malaysia, he said, places importance on its close relations with Indonesia, more so as this year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment diplomatic relations with the republic. 

In Jakarta, President Joko Widodo has called on all parties not to blow the issue out of proportion.

An online media on Sunday quoted the Indonesian president as saying that although the matter was regrettable, people in the country should not overplay the issue.

“Don’t exaggerate it,” he said, as quoted by Detik.com.

He said the Malaysian Govern­ment, however, should formally apologise to Indonesia.

“We wait for an official apology from the Malaysian Government, as it concerns the pride and nationalistic spirit of our Indonesian people,” he said. 

Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, the Masoc chairman, has also apologised to Indonesia over the error.

He met his counterpart Imam Nahrawi at a hotel on Sunday and handed over a letter of apology. The two ministers then shook hands in front of a packed media conference.

Khairy, while offering his public apology, expressed his regret over the matter and was quick to admit that it was a “big mistake”.

“On behalf of Masoc, I have apologised to my counterpart Bapak Imam and here I would also like to say sorry to all the Indonesians over this mistake.

“It’s a big mistake but unintentional and it happened due to our carelessness,” he said.

Imam accepted the apology from Khairy, whom he regarded as a very close friend, and hopes that the issue will not repeated.

“I will bring this apology forward to President Jokowi to decide on our next step. But I hope this matter has served as a lesson for everyone and will not be repeated in the future,” he said.

Indonesia's Olympic committee chief, Inter Milan president Erick Thohir, slammed Malaysia's "negligence".

"Of course, I am expressing my deep regret on this fault, which shows negligence and absent-mindedness," he said in a statement.

"Friendship is the greatest legacy in sports, but a mistake in presenting a national identity of a nation is not justified.

"We in the world of sport however do not let things such as this interfere with the relationship between countries."

Indonesian fans were enraged by the lapse, with #ShameOnYouMalaysia the country's top trending topic on Twitter early on Sunday.

It wasn't the only mistake involving Indonesia: a SEA Games booklet also mixed up Indonesia and Thailand's flags in reprint of the medals table from 2011.

The 11-nation SEA Games, which gets into full swing on Sunday, is not alone in making mistakes with participants' flags - and receiving strong complaints afterwards.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, China complained bitterly that the flag used at medal ceremonies had its small gold stars pointing at the wrong angle.

At the 2012 Olympics, North Korea's women's footballers refused to play, delaying the start of their game with Colombia, when their images were shown next to the South Korea flag on a stadium screen.