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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Malaysia apologises for Indonesia flag blunder in South-East Asian Games

Indonesian president Joko Widodo demanded an apology for hurt national pride but cautioned against exaggerating the incident with the neighbouring country

The Indonesian flag was printed upside-down in a copy of the souvenir magazine for the 29th South-East Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, causing an uproar in Indonesia and prompting organisers in Malaysia to apologise. Mohd Rasfan/AFP Photo
The Indonesian flag was printed upside-down in a copy of the souvenir magazine for the 29th South-East Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, causing an uproar in Indonesia and prompting organisers in Malaysia to apologise. Mohd Rasfan/AFP Photo

Malaysia apologised to Indonesia on Sunday for an "unintentional" mistake in printing the Indonesian flag upside down in a souvenir guidebook for the South-East Asian Games.

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 of the 29th South-East Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, where the souvenir magazine was handed out to dignitaries — including Indonesia's sports minister Imam Nahrawi, who tweeted a picture of the offending page.

The error made the red-and-white Indonesian flag resemble Poland's and caused anger in Indonesia.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo demanded an apology for hurt national pride but also cautioned against exaggerating the incident with his neighbour.

Malaysian youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin met his Indonesian counterpart Imam Nahrawi to personally apologise. After a brief private meeting on Sunday, the two ministers shook hands at a news conference.

Mr Khairy , who quickly issued the first apology late Saturday on Twitter, said the guidebooks will be corrected and reprinted.

Mr Nahrawi, who earlier described the error as "very painful", said he accepted the apology.

"We hope these mistakes don't get repeated because flags are important symbols for each country and should be respected," he said.

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Mr Khairy said the mistake was "unintentional and it happened due to our carelessness".

The creation of Malaysia when the British Empire was dismantled after the Second World War was bitterly opposed by Indonesia, itself then a new nation emerging from Dutch colonial rule and a short-lived Japanese occupation.

On Twitter, Indonesians said their flag represents the sacrifices of independence heroes and accused Malaysia of either being stupid or deliberately misprinting it.

Malaysia's SEA Games organisers are not alone in making mistakes with competitors' flags and receiving strong complaints afterwards.

Last year at the Rio Olympics, China complained 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 they were shown next to the South Korean flag on a stadium screen.

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