SEA Games: Oops! Malaysia upsets Indonesia with flag blunder

The Indonesian flag printed upside-down in a copy of the souvenir magazine for the Southeast Asian Games. (AFP)
Updated 20 August 2017
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SEA Games: Oops! Malaysia upsets Indonesia with flag blunder

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesia’s president expressed concern on Sunday after Malaysia’s Southeast Asian Games organizers mistakenly published the Indonesian flag upside-down in a commemorative magazine, prompting anger among fans.
Malaysia’s foreign ministry and the Games organizers apologized 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 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.
Indonesia’s flag has a red stripe above a white stripe, but it was printed with the white stripe on top, making it look like the flag of Poland.
Malaysian organizers were quick to apologize and the country’s Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin visited Nahrawi at his hotel to explain in person.
But it was not the only incident, as a SEA Games booklet also mixed up Indonesia and Thailand’s flags in a reprint of the medals table from 2011.
A Malaysian daily newspaper also printed Indonesia’s flag upside-down, while Games organizers were caught using the wrong flag for two Brunei athletes at the synchronized swimming.
The swimmers, Jacqueline Lim and Nur Hafizah Ahmad, were shown next to what appeared to be a flag for Brunei’s armed forces, rather than the national emblem.
SEA Games organizers told Indonesia they “very much regret the mistake” and the foreign ministry also said sorry for the “inadvertent error.”
“We would like to extend our apology to the government and the people of the Republic of Indonesia,” the foreign ministry statement said.
“In this regard, we wish to assure the government of the Republic of Indonesia that all measures have been taken to address this unfortunate situation.”
The incident grabbed attention on the first full day of action at the biennial SEA Games, which mix Olympic sports with Asian favorites like pencak silat and wushu.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said it was a matter of “national pride” for the country, which is the biggest in Southeast Asia with about 260 million people.
“We deeply regret the incident but do not exaggerate it,” he said. “We are waiting for the apology from the Malaysian government because this concerns the national pride of our country.”
Indonesia’s Olympic committee chief, Inter Milan president Erick Thohir, earlier criticized Malaysia’s “negligence.”
“Of course, I am expressing my deep regret on this fault, which shows negligence and absent-mindedness,” he said in a statement.
“Friendship is the greatest legacy in sports, but a mistake in presenting a national identity of a nation is not justified.”
Malaysia’s SEA Games organizers are not alone in making mistakes with competitors’ flags — and receiving strong complaints afterwards.
Last year at the Rio Olympics, China complained bitterly 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.


Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

Updated 24 May 2019
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Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

  • Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors
  • After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers said they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies

NEW DELHI: Foreign companies in India have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory for the political stability it brings, but now they need to see him soften a protectionist stance adopted in the past year.
Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors, with US firms such as Amazon.com , Walmart and Mastercard committing billions of dollars in investments and ramping up hiring.
India is also the biggest market by users for firms such as Facebook Inc, and its subsidiary, WhatsApp.
But from around 2017, critics say, the Hindu nationalist leader took a harder, protectionist line on sectors such as e-commerce and technology, crafting some policies that appeared to aim at whipping up patriotic fervor ahead of elections.
“I hope he’s now back to wooing businesses,” said Prasanto Roy, a technology policy analyst based in New Delhi, who advises global tech firms.
“Global firms remain deeply concerned about the lack of policy stability or predictability, this has sent a worrying message to global investors.”
India stuck to its policies despite protests and aggressive lobbying by the United States government, US-India trade bodies and companies themselves.
Small hurdles
Modi was set to hold talks on Friday to form a new cabinet after election panel data showed his Bharatiya Janata Party had won 302 of the 542 seats at stake and was leading in one more, up from the 282 it won in 2014.
After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers told Reuters they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies.
Other investors hope the government will avoid sudden policy changes on investment and regulation that catch them off guard and prove very costly, urging instead industry-wide consultation that permits time to prepare.
Protectionism concerns “are small hurdles you have to go through,” however, said Prem Watsa, the chairman of Canadian diversified investment firm Fairfax Financial, which has investments of $5 billion in India.
“There will be more business-friendly policies and more private enterprise coming into India,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Tech, healthcare and beyond
Among the firms looking for more friendly steps are global payments companies that had benefited since 2016 from Modi’s push for electronic payments instead of cash.
Last year, however, firms such as Mastercard and Visa were asked to store more of their data in India, to allow “unfettered supervisory access,” a change that prompted WhatsApp to delay plans for a payments service.
Modi’s government has also drafted a law to clamp similar stringent data norms on the entire sector.
But abrupt changes to rules on foreign investment in e-commerce stoked alarm at firms such as Amazon, which saw India operations disrupted briefly in February, and Walmart, just months after it invested $16 billion in India’s Flipkart.
Policy changes also hurt foreign players in the $5-billion medical device industry, such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson, following 2017 price caps on products such as heart stents and knee implants.
Modi’s government said the move aimed to help poor patients and curb profiteering, but the US government and lobby groups said it harmed innovation, profits and investment plans.
“If foreign companies see their future in this country on a long-term basis...they will have to look at the interests of the people,” Ashwani MaHajjan, an official of a nationalist group that pushed for some of the measures, told Reuters.
That view was echoed this week by two policymakers who said government policies will focus on strengthening India’s own companies, while providing foreign players with adequate opportunities for growth.
Such comments worry foreign executives who fear Modi is not about to change his protectionist stance in a hurry, with one offical of a US tech firm saying, “I’d rather be more worried than be optimistic.”