Indonesians in protest over upside down flag demands SEA Games 2017 booklet retraction

In this illustration picture taken on August 20, 2017 shows the Indonesian flag printed upside-down in a copy of the souvenir magazine for the 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Kuala Lumpur. (AFP Photo/Mohd Rasfan)

Following the grand opening of the 29th SEA Games, Indonesians took to Twitter after a misprint of their national flag in the official booklet. Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi, broke his silence by stating the misprint was a 'fatal mistake'.

It did not take citizens of Indonesia long before echoing on Nahrawi's tweet, pointing at the Malaysians for printing Poland's flag in place of the neighbouring country with the hashtag 'ShameOnYouMalaysia' which appeared on the country's Twitter trending topics list.

An illustration of the Indonesia's and Poland's flags.

The ASEAN Post got in contact with an Indonesian citizen, Anggoro Dimas, 26, regarding the issue that has been gaining international attention. "They should have had several screening stages before letting the booklets go to the printers, especially when it’s an event of such a big scale," he said.

A Malaysian daily, Harian Metro committed the same blunder today by printing the upside down image of the Indonesian flag on their double-spread infrographic about the 29th SEA Games (page 32-33).

In this combo illustration picture taken on August 20, 2017 shows the Indonesian flag printed upside-down in a Malaysian daily for the 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Kuala Lumpur. (The ASEAN Post/Rebecca Shamasundari)

MASOC (Malaysia Organizing Committee) of SEA Games 2017 released a statement on August 19, 2017, regarding the flag issue as an 'inadvertent error' in publishing and announced that Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who also serves as chairman of MASOC, is to meet the Indonesian delegates to offer a formal apology.

The page with the upside down Indonesian flag was meant to show previous hosts of the SEA Games in a chronological manner. Indonesia, which acted as one of the founding countries of ASEAN, has only two colours compared to the complexity of other countries such as Philippines and Myanmar. This was brought up by many of the angered citizens saying that the national flag holds a strong footing in history for the multicultural country that celebrated its 72nd year of independence on August 17, 2017.

Twitter users added on about the organisers' not paying proper attention to detail which is an insult to Indonesia's history and dignity.

In an official statement, chairman of Indonesian Olympic Committee (KOI) Erick Thohir announced that the committee will be issuing a formal protest note to the Malaysian National Olympic Committe (NOC) regarding the incident, and a demand for retraction of all booklets published until the red and white flag is error is properly addressed.

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

Controversy, is not short, between Indonesia and Malaysia and has been reported many times before. Amongst other claims are cultural similarities, an issue that followed the bribery of Indonesian students from lower economic classes to cheer and support the Malaysian team due to the lack of supporters at a sporting event, and the 2011 SEA Games hosted by Indonesia where a soccer game turned violent between Indonesian and Malaysian supporters.

According to another statement released, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman expressed his regret and extended his apology to the Indonesian government and people on the error made by MASOC. The ministry also assured that Malaysia will take appropriate measures to address this. Malaysia hopes and believes “that the two countries will continue to interact closely together and in doing so, strengthen the ties between the two nations and within the region as a whole.”

Bukit Aman's (Malaysia's police headquarters) Special Branch director Mohamad Fuzi Harun said that the Malaysian police is currently investigating the printing error to ensure that history never repeats.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo also called for an apology but requested that the issue that happened in SEA Games 2017 not to be overblown and made a dispute that would endanger diplomatic ties between the two nations. – AFP


(Rebecca Shamasundari contributed to this article)