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).

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. 

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.

UK vies for post-Brexit Asia trade as EU lines up FTAs – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — Even as the terms of its exit from the European Union remain undecided, the U.K. looks set to take on Brussels over access to Asian markets, with Indonesia’s growing economy set to be the first, and potentially crucial, battleground. While Britain tries to lay the groundwork for future trade agreements, the bloc it is leaving has already brokered a number of deals across the region. Last week, the EU and Indonesia held the fourth round of negotiations over a proposed free trade deal known as the Indonesia-European Union Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.  As those discussions were taking place in Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s hometown of Solo in central Java, the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced the appointment of Richard Michael as Britain’s official export finance representative in Indonesia.

UK targets Indonesia in first test of “Global Britain” plan – The Daily Telegraph

JAKARTA/LONDON — British engineers could be handed lucrative contracts with Indonesia to regenerate its ailing road and rail networks under a government push to boost trade and diplomatic ties with Southeast Asia after Brexit. The move would pit British firms against Chinese and Japanese giants who are vying for influence over Indonesia’s growing economy, in one of the first tests of the UK’s post-Brexit “Global Britain” push. “We are trying to get a greater slice of the action,” Moazzam Malik, the British ambassador in Indonesia, told the Telegraph as UK officials unveiled plans to increase business ties.

Indonesia joins China and South Korea on US trade hit list – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — Indonesia is the latest Asian country to face American trade curbs after the U.S. Department of Commerce said it planned to slap anti-dumping duties of 92.52% to 276.65% on biodiesel imports from the archipelago. Argentina, another biodiesel producer, was also targeted by the Feb. 21 announcement, after U.S. businesses complained that they were being undercut by unfairly subsidized fuel from both countries. The commerce department said that exporters from Argentina and Indonesia respectively sold biodiesel in the U.S. at 60.44% to 86.41% and 92.52% to 276.65% below what it deems fair value. The U.S. International Trade Commission will make a final decision on April 6 on whether the imports have hurt U.S. producers. If the ruling is upheld, the duties recommended by the commerce department will effectively price Indonesian biodiesel out of the U.S. market. 

Bans on extramarital and gay sex proposed in Indonesia – RTÉ World Report

JAKARTA — When the Indonesian government invited the United Nations’ human rights commissioner to Jakarta, it must have known that Zeid Ra’al al Hussein, a Jordanian diplomat who is nearing the end of his 4 year term, would have plenty to say about proposed changes to country’s criminal code. Indonesian parliamentarians will vote soon on measures which include criminalizing not only gay sex but all sex outside marriage between men and women. Al Hussein joined foreign minister Retno Marsudi in addressing a conference at the ministry on Monday last week, telling the officials and diplomats that human rights are not restricted by geography, ethnic group or gender. Two days later, after meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo, al-Hussein was less bland, claiming that the proposed changes “betray strains of intolerance seemingly alien to Indonesian culture.”

Palm oil producers in Asia want EU to step back from restrictions – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — Major palm oil producers in Asia are hoping European governments will not go ahead with proposals that could undermine their businesses and damage the Indonesian and Malaysian economies. Proponents say palm oil requires less land to grow than other vegetable oil crops. “Palm oil is the most productive oil that exists today,” said Colin Lee, director of corporate affairs at Cargill Tropical Palm, which has around 80,000 hectares of oil palm plantation in the region.  Indonesia and Malaysia provide around 85% of the world’s palm oil. Palm oil makes up between 10% and 12% of their total exports, according to global bank HSBC.

Southeast Asia’s increasingly-brutal social media heightens tensions – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — The region’s jarring social media jousting means that platforms such as Twitter are not really “social” anymore, but have become “weaponized” according to Indonesian political analyst Wimar Witoelar, who has 439,000 Twitter followers. “So interaction is more often divisive than not. You cannot form a consensus. Instead you sharpen your differences,” he said via WhatsApp. Even Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president, is not immune to savaging on social media, taking to Facebook in September to make his point. “I was asked, ‘President Jokowi, how is the state of social media in Indonesia?’, I replied, ‘In Indonesia, it can get very vicious,” he posted.

Indonesian Islamists celebrate success ahead of election season – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — With volcano Mt. Agung billowing ash into the sky above his home island, the majority-Hindu Bali, Khairy Susanto was unsure if he would be able to fly home on December 3, the day after he joined tens of thousands of fellow Indonesian Islamists at a rally held in the shadow of Monas, the national monument that towers over a huge plaza across the street from the presidential palace in Jakarta. “Inshallah, we can fly, but it doesn’t matter, we will be ok,” he said. “We are happy to be here today to celebrate our victory.” The event was organized to mark a year since an estimated half million people chanted in the rain for the arrest of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Governor of Jakarta. Purnama, a Protestant of Chinese descent nicknamed “Ahok,” since lost the gubernatorial election and was jailed for two years in May on the same blasphemy charges that twice brought hundreds of thousands of people onto Jakarta’s streets late last year.