Asians in the U.A.E. scramble to avail of visa amnesty – Nikkei Asian Review

DUBAI — The food stalls ringing the interior of Little Manila in Dubai make for a nostalgic evocation of the real thing — and serve as a home away from home for some of the estimated 750,000 Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates. Across Dubai there are dozens of similarly themed restaurants and shops, sometimes even entire streets, catering to expatriate worker communities from India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and several other Asian countries. Much of the talk in these establishments now centers on the thousands of stranded workers who are availing of a temporary amnesty provided by the government to fly home after having any prospective punishments for visa infractions revoked.

Indonesia set for rematch of 2014 presidential election – Los Angeles Times

JAKARTA –The presidential election in Indonesia next year may see a reprise of the testy 2014 contest between President Joko Widodo and retired general Prabowo Subianto after both men registered their candidacies Friday. The incumbent, popularly known as Jokowi, selected a 75-year-old cleric as his running mate, a move designed to shore up his support from Islamists as he seeks a second five-year term leading the world’s most populous Muslim country. Jokowi is the early favorite to win the April election as a former political outsider who has spent his first term focusing on infrastructure projects. He is the first president from outside Indonesia’s political and military elite since the dictator Suharto resigned in 1998.

Power and water outages on Indonesian island as ‘quake death toll rises to 131 – Los Angeles Times

JAKARTA – Relief workers and soldiers worked to restore electricity, distribute tents and set up temporary kitchens Wednesday as officials raised the death toll in a 6.9-magnitude earthquake on the Indonesian island of Lombok to 131.
An additional 26 fatalities were confirmed from Sunday’s temblor as relief teams were finally reaching some villages and mountainous areas that had been inaccessible due to landslides, collapsed bridges and other damage. But as emergency crews comb more of the eastern Indonesian resort island, the death toll “will continue to grow,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the Indonesian Disaster Management Agency. “There is a lot of damage,” Nugroho told a news conference in Jakarta, adding that another 1,500 people were injured and 155,000 were displaced from their homes.

Man pulled alive from flattened mosque on earthquake-hit island – Los Angeles Times

JAKARTA – The death toll in Sunday’s 6.9-magnitude earthquake on the Indonesian island of Lombok has risen from 98 to 105, a number that is likely to increase as relief and rescue teams struggle to reach cut-off villages in the worst-hit areas. “It is estimated that the number of victims will increase because the evacuation of victims affected by the [collapsed] buildings is still [being] carried out,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the Indonesian Disaster Management Agency, which put the number of those displaced by the disaster at 84,000. On Tuesday, rescue workers pulled a man alive from the rubble of a mosque that collapsed during evening prayers when the earthquake struck at 7:46 p.m. on Sunday. A 23-year-old woman was also rescued from the rubble of a minimart in the town of Pemenang.

Nearly a hundred dead, thousands evacuate after earthquake on Lombok in eastern Indonesia – Los Angeles Times/RTÉ

JAKARTA – Medical equipment, tents and other supplies Monday were being rushed to the Indonesian island of Lombok after a devastating earthquake killed at least 98 people and left about 20,000 people homeless, disaster relief officials said. The earthquake Sunday evening, coming only a week after another deadly earthquake in Lombok, knocked down bridges, left roads blocked and damaged communications infrastructure, making it difficult for emergency crews to reach some hard-hit areas. Arifin Hadi, spokesman for the Indonesian Red Cross, said that “the disaster on Lombok is big, there are many houses down, there needs to be roads cleared.” Hadi said the Red Cross has sent nurses, doctors and drinking water to Lombok. “We have 11 water trucks there now, we will send 10 more from Surabaya” (Indonesia’s second biggest city, in the east of island of Java).

East Timor heads for election after bad-tempered campaign – Nikkei Asian Review

Xanana Gusmao speaks to supporters after winning 2012 election in East Timor (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

DENPASAR — For the second time in less than a year, voters in East Timor will head to polling stations on May 12 to decide who will run the second smallest country in Southeast Asia. The last elections held in July 2017 left Mari Alkariri of the Fretilin party, or the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor, as prime minister leading a shaky minority government. As its name suggests, Fretilin is made up of activists and fighters who opposed Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor between 1975 and 1999. Fretilin won the most seats then, with 23, but the coalition it cobbled together was vulnerable, holding just 30 out of a total 65 seats in the Dili parliament. Unsurprisingly, Alkatiri’s government fell after the pointedly named Parliamentary Majority Alliance opposition refused to support his proposed budget.

Two-thirds of all air pollution deaths in Asia – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — The sight of commuters, their faces hidden behind masks, zipping around on the back of motorcycle taxis is common across Asia. The bikes weave through gridlock in cities like Jakarta and Bangkok, getting the passengers to work on time. The masks, sometimes worn by both driver and passenger, hint that the air they breathe might not be the cleanest.  Judging from World Health Organization figures released on Wednesday, covering 4,300 cities across 108 countries, the commuters have the right idea. Of an estimated 7 million deaths worldwide per year from air pollution, just over two-thirds take place in Asia, which is home to slightly less than 60% of the global population. Breaking the numbers down further, the 10 countries in the WHO’s “South-east Asia” region account for about a quarter of the world’s population but suffer around 2.4 million, or 34%, of all air pollution deaths. 

Tough times for Southeast Asia’s migrant workers – Nikkei Asian Review/FT

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE — A year ago two young female migrant workers in Indonesia, including 26 year old Indonesian Siti Nurbaya, were cast at the center of an international murder mystery when they were arrested by police for their alleged role in the audacious, Le Carré-esque assassination by poisoning of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which was carried out despite the usual bustling morning crowd at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport. Preying on the women’s perceived vulnerability as relatively-poor migrant workers at the margins of society, defense lawyers contend that North Korean agents duped their clients into unwittingly carrying out the murder by bluffing they were being recruited for a series of made for TV pranks. As the trial of Nurbaya and her alleged accomplice from Vietnam rolled on last month in Shah Alam near Kuala Lumpur, another case was emerging that highlighted the perils facing migrants in Malaysia. Adelina Sao died in a Penang hospital on February 11 after she was found with head injuries and infected wounds on her limbs, succumbing after two years in Malaysia as one of around 400,000 foreign maids working in the country.

Diver exposes plastic rubbish off Bali coast – The Daily Telegraph

JAKARTA — Footage of a vast plastic ‘slick’ shot by a British diver off the coast of Bali has put renewed focus on the growing threat of ocean pollution. Rich Horner filmed himself swimming through swathes of plastic rubbish floating in turquoise waters around 15 miles offshore from Denpasar, the Balinese regional capital. The footage is being seen as a warning over increasingly toxic levels of plastic waste along some of the most picturesque shorelines of Indonesia, which is heavily reliant on tourism. “Plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic sheets, plastic buckets, plastic sachets, plastic straws, plastic baskets, plastic bags, more plastic bags,” Horner wrote.