SEA Games: Malaysia apologises to Indonesia over flag blunder in Games guidebook
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SEA Games: Malaysia apologises to Indonesia over flag blunder in Games guidebook

MALAYSIA has apologised for printing an upside-down version of Indonesia’s flag in the souvenir guidebook for the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, which were officially declared open on Saturday.

The mistake, which was spotted at the opening ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, has led to Malaysian officials promising to withdraw and reprint the guidebooks.

The error prompted an outcry in Indonesia, with the hashtag #ShameonyouMalaysia trending during the weekend.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo told reporters in Jakarta the incident concerned “national pride” and called for an apology.

His wish was quickly granted, as, within hours, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman apologised to the government and people of Indonesia for the “inadvertent error”.

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He added that all measures were being taken “to address this unfortunate situation”.

Earlier, Malaysia Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin – who is synonymous with Malaysia’s hosting of the Games – said the mistake would be corrected and a new guidebook sent to officials and guests.

“We apologise for affecting the image and reputation of the Republic of Indonesia, as the flag is a symbol of pride,” he said.

Indonesia’s flag has two horizontal bands with red on the top and white underneath. When turned upside down, it looks like Poland’s flag.


Performers at the opening ceremony of the 29th Southeast Asian Games at Bukit Jalil Stadium, Kuala Lumpur. Source: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin

Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi acknowledged Khairy’s apology, and said he hoped the incident would not be repeated.

Imam had earlier expressed his disbelief and dismay, posting pictures of the mistake on Twitter.

“It was a good opening ceremony but spoiled by this fatal negligence that was very painful,” he said.

It is not the first time a flag blunder has been made at a big sporting event.

At the London 2012 Olympics, the North Korean women’s football team left the field before a game against Colombia after South Korea’s flag appeared on big screens inside the stadium.

Last week at the SEA Games, a bus driver ferrying the Myanmar women’s football team was arrested on suspicion of stealing a watch belonging to a Malaysian official, as well as not possessing a driving license. – Reuters.