JAKARTA (Reuters) - More than 30 Malaysians have pulled out of an Indonesian badminton match over safety fears, an official said on Thursday, after an alleged assault of an Indonesian karate referee by Malaysian police triggered widespread anger.
The Malaysians had been due to play at the Indonesia Challenge badminton tournament in the East Java capital of Surabaya but withdrew following a threat by a youth group to “sweep” Malaysians from the country.
“They will be fined $250 each for not showing up although they have signed up,” Budi Haryono, an official at the Indonesian Badminton Association, told Elshinta radio.
The withdrawal comes after hundreds protested in cities across Indonesia over the alleged assault of the referee officiating the Asian Karate Championship by four Malaysian plain-clothes officers in the early hours last Friday.
Agung Laksono, the speaker of the Indonesian parliament, urged Vice President Jusuf Kalla not to go ahead with plans to visit Malaysia for the neighbour’s independence anniversary celebrations on Friday, while some legislators called for a boycott of Malaysian products.
The Yogyakarta headquarters of Excelcomindo Pratama Tbk, Indonesia’s third-biggest mobile phone firm and a unit of Telekom Malaysia, received a bomb threat but it proved to be a hoax, police said.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar expressed his country’s “deep regret” over the incident at a meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday, the Malaysian ambassador in Jakarta was quoted as saying by Detik.com, an online news service.
The referee, Donald Kolopita, was in Malaysia to officiate the event in the state of Negeri Sembilan when the alleged assault took place, said Maxi Pauran of the Indonesian Karate Association.
Pauran said that Kolopita had been set upon by the officers for no apparent reason and, unaware that the men were police, kicked one of them before being beaten “black and blue”.
Indonesia pulled out on Saturday from the Aug. 24-25 tournament, before completing final bouts in the competition over the incident.
A senior Malaysian police officer was quoted earlier this week by the New Straits Times newspaper as saying that the incident was being investigated.
The two nations share close cultural ties, but resentment in Indonesia sometimes spills over, often tied to reports of abuse of Indonesian maids or the treatment of the many other Indonesian workers in the country.