Malaysia’s basketball chief has taken indefinite leave after an incorrect version of the national flag was displayed at a youth tournament, sparking nationwide outrage, accusations of “betrayal” and even a police probe.
The angry response echoes the heated reactions seen after similar gaffes at international events, but it’s rare for such an incident to cause problems at an entirely domestic tournament.
The faulty flag was displayed on a screen in a Kuala Lumpur stadium at the opening of an under-15 national basketball tournament at the weekend.
It featured a five-pointed star, while the official flag has a star with 14 points. It also had only 10 stripes, instead of the usual 14.
Social media exploded with outrage, while the education minister slammed the blunder as a “betrayal to our nationalism” and police hauled in national basketball chief Lua Choon Hann for questioning.
With little sign of anger abating, the Malaysia Basketball Association announced late Thursday that Lua was going on indefinite leave as he felt he was “ultimately responsible”.
But the association added in a statement that it “stands by our stance that this incident is purely an unintentional oversight”, and blamed an outside company for the flag error.
Malaysia’s flag is a source of great national pride and disrespecting the emblem can cause deep offence. Those deemed to have insulted it can face legal action.
Some commentators also noted that the erroneous five-pointed star mirrors the star on the Chinese flag, raising suspicions in a country where relations can be uneasy between ethnic Chinese and the Muslim Malay majority.
Similar gaffes are not uncommon at international events such as the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, when hosts Malaysia triggered fury in Indonesia by accidentally printing the Indonesian flag upside-down in a commemorative magazine.
And at the 2012 Olympics, North Korea’s women footballers were left fuming after flags of arch-rivals South Korea were displayed as they were being introduced for a match.
© Agence France-Presse