Malaysia-Indonesia Friendship Still Strong After the Flag Incident

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The 2017 SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) in Kuala Lumpur started with an uncomfortable incident. In thousands of booklets that come as souvenirs from the event, the flag of Indonesia was printed upside-down. At the first glance, it might seem a minor mistake, however, considering the level of the sports event, such negligence is unacceptable.

Many thought the friendship between the two countries has weakened incident to the mistake, especially after the Youth and Sports Minister of Indonesia wrote on his Twitter account how unhappy he was with the news. The thoughts about lost friendship turned out to be way too dramatic, though, as Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifah Aman has officially apologized for the problem, addressing the government and the people of the Republic of Indonesia.

Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister had apologized on social media right after the news, and later on he met with the Indonesian counterpart to do it again. He also provided a written apology note.

The booklet distribution has halted as soon as those in charge were made aware of the matter. To fix the mistake, the new version of the souvenir booklet was printed and is waiting to be distributed. Imam Nahrawi, Indonesian minister, accepted the apologies and promised to transfer them to President Joko Widodo. The minister also expressed his gratitude to the government of Malaysia for such a quick response, which is crucial when such mistakes are made. Moreover, he said that the incident won’t affect the friendly relationships between the two nations.

President Joko Widodo let everyone know he had forgiven the 2017 SEA Games host for printing their flag upside down. According to his special communications official, there was no rage or hatred, and the Indonesian president only waited for the official apology, which came quickly. Also, he expressed his hopes towards the reaction of the Indonesian nation. He expected tolerance and patience concerning the incident.

This, unfortunately, is not the case. While there are people who did express their understanding and loyalty, there are also individuals who got deeply offended by the negligence from the host’s side. As one of the incidents reported, the Malaysian flag was burned near the embassy in Medan.

The Minister of Youth and Sports of Malaysia, Khairy Jamaluddin, was asked about the burning. He said several times throughout his response that the government can do nothing with such aggressive reactions, as there’s little control over them. He also spoke all the things he and the government have done to prevent the damage from the upside-down flag mistake. He mentioned all the apologies and their results, which were more than positive. They have created and printed a new booklet that will become available as soon as possible. In conclusion, the minister said they have done the most and the best they could to soothe the situation.

Acts of aggression towards property or symbols of another country aren’t unique in Southeast Asia, as well as in the whole world. Especially if sports are involved, as the fans are excited about the outcome. Hopefully, no harm will be done to the people of both countries, as well as to all other guests attending the sports events in Kuala Lumpur. This incident might be very soon a joke between the two governments, but whether it will become that among the peoples of both countries, we are yet to learn.