Flag mistake shouldn't affect Malaysia ties: The Jakarta Post

Malaysia's SEA Games organisers wrongly printed the Indonesian flag upside down in a souvenir magazine, prompting a scathing response from the team and anger on social media.
Malaysia's SEA Games organisers wrongly printed the Indonesian flag upside down in a souvenir magazine, prompting a scathing response from the team and anger on social media. PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial on Aug 22, the paper says the nationwide anger over the issue shows Indonesians are not showing their maturity.

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - There should be no anger about the Indonesian flag being printed upside down in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games booklets distributed to attendants of the opening ceremony on Saturday (Aug 19) - it was a genuine mistake.

Unfortunately, however, the error has triggered nationwide anger and retaliatory sarcasm in Indonesia, particularly in social media.

Both Malaysian Foreign Minister Sri Anifah Haji Aman and Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin apologised for the incident, which they said had been inadvertently committed by the Malaysian Organising Committee. Indonesia's government has rightly accepted Malaysia's mea culpa, as reflected in the meeting between Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi and Jamaluddin on Sunday.

Indeed, there is no reason to make a fuss about the mistake, given the Asean spirit that has bound the two nations and other South-east Asian neighbours for the last 50 years. Indonesia and Malaysia, both co-founders of Asean, and fellow association members have just celebrated their historic achievement and agreed on commitments for a strong, prosperous and stable community.

The Games' theme, Rising Together, epitomises the host nation's goodwill to promote regional solidarity through the two-week sporting competition.

Now that Malaysia has confessed the mistake and offered an olive branch, Indonesia should shift its focus back to the competition. Indonesia is trailing behind host country Malaysia and other rivals in the medals race, and failure to move on will only cost its bid to reclaim its supremacy in the SEA Games.


The flag blunder shows that, first and foremost, we have failed to show our maturity. Perhaps our nationalist fervour has ignited hostility towards Malaysia, reflected in, among other things, calls for the whole team to withdraw from the competition in the name of national pride.

Such animosity has also been felt beyond the sports arena, as evidenced by debates over the heritage right of traditional songs and other cultural products pitting the two neighbours, and rallies in Jakarta in response to Malaysia's law enforcement against undocumented Indonesian migrant workers.

As the clamour over the flag incident has suggested, relations between the two nations of the same Malay race have remained as fragile as ever. Continuous efforts to build common understanding particularly among the peoples are therefore imperative.

On the Malaysian side, however, the flag gaffe may not simply constitute poor supervision of the production process of official guide books. It could signal a more serious problem that Malaysian people are strangers to Indonesia, despite their similar origin - and perhaps vice versa.

God forbid such worries have any grounds. Otherwise it would put the build-up of Asean as a single community in jeopardy.

The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 media entities.