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Local Activists Praise Nobel Winners

Ed School Student Coordinates Cambridge East Timor Action Group

By Matthew N. Stoller

Local activists reacted favorably to last Friday's awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to two individuals involved in the struggle of East Timor against its Indonesian occupiers.

"It will help publicize the atrocities in East Timor," said Mark Salzer, a student at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and the coordinator of the East Timor Action Network of Boston. "A lot of what was going on was going on because the world didn't look."

The Nobel Prize was awarded to Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, East Timor's Roman Catholic Bishop; and Jose Ramos-Horta, an exiled publicist who had ties to the island's independence movement.

The East Timorian Action Network is a national organization dedicated to the solidarity of East Timor, Salzer said. It has more than a dozen chapters all over the country, including one based in Cambridge.

The local chapter hosts speakers and lobbies for human rights in conjunction with the national organization and such groups as Amnesty International, he said.

Indonesian occupation of East Timor began in 1975, and the Muslim country annexed the predominantly Catholic territory the following year.

Some human rights groups claim that as many as 200,000 people were killed as a result of the occupation, and Indonesia has crushed most resistance movements since.

"It's a place of terror," said Salzer, who has visited the island. "Everybody knows somebody or has a relative who has been killed."

Salzer said the U.S. government has long-standing ties to the Indonesian government. Ninety percent of the arms used in the initial invasion were U.S.-made, he said.

The group hopes to publicize not only the issue of East Timorian repression but also these U.S. ties, he said.

The East Timorian Action Network, along with other human rights' groups, was successful in postponing the sale of F-16 fighter planes to the Indonesian government, as well as cutting off small-arms sales to the region, he said.

They are also working to promote a bill currently in the Massachusetts legislature that would limit corporations based in the commonwealth from trading with Indonesia, he added.

Open to all, the East Timorian Action Network of Boston has a membership of 30 and holds meetings every month in Loker Commons, Salzer said.

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