SEA Games 2017

Indonesia flag gaffe triggers criticism, apologies

Malaysia's SEA Games organisers apologised to Indonesia after its flag was printed upside down in a souvenir magazine, prompting a scathing response from the team, as well as anger on social media.
Malaysia's SEA Games organisers apologised to Indonesia after its flag was printed upside down in a souvenir magazine, prompting a scathing response from the team, as well as anger on social media.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • Indonesia's President Joko Widodo yesterday expressed concern after SEA Games organisers mistakenly published the country's flag upside down in a commemorative magazine, prompting anger among Indonesians.

Malaysia's foreign ministry and the Games organisers apologised profusely for the gaffe, but it was not enough to quell a wave of complaints online, with #ShameOnYouMalaysia becoming Indonesia's top trending topic on Twitter.

The blunder came to light at Saturday's opening ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, where the souvenir was handed out to dignitaries - including Indonesia's Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi, who tweeted a picture of the offending page.

Indonesia's flag has a red stripe above a white stripe, but it was inverted, making it look instead like the flag of Poland.

Malaysia's Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin visited Mr Nahrawi at his hotel to apologise and its foreign ministry also said in a statement: "We wish to assure the government of the Republic of Indonesia that all measures have been taken to address this unfortunate situation."

Mr Widodo said the incident "concerns the national pride of our country", but added: "We deeply regret the incident but do not exaggerate it."

 

Indonesia's Olympic committee chief Erick Thohir earlier criticised Malaysia's "negligence".

"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."

Malaysian police are investigating the matter. Bukit Aman federal police special branch director Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said: "Perhaps it was a technical error. We are investigating and will take action as the incident should not have happened.

"We don't want our neighbouring country, Indonesia, to feel hurt, so we need to take measures to ensure this does not recur in future."

It was not the only incident, as another SEA Games booklet mixed up the flags of Indonesia and Thailand in a reprint of the medals table from 2011.

A Malaysian daily also printed Indonesia's flag upside down, while the Games organisers were criticised for using the wrong flag for two Brunei athletes at a synchronised swimming event.

The swimmers, Jacqueline Lim and Nur Hafizah Ahmad, were shown next to what appeared to be a flag for Brunei's armed forces.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BERNAMA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesia flag gaffe triggers criticism, apologies'. Print Edition | Subscribe