Subject: Longtime congressional advocate of troubled island to make first trip

Rep. Hall to see East Timor

Longtime advocate of troubled island to make first trip

By Mei-Ling Hopgood Dayton Daily News Thursday, June 28, 2001

WASHINGTON--U.S. Rep. Tony Hall, D-Dayton, who has followed closely and advocated for East Timor for more than 20 years, will visit there for the first time.

Hall leaves today for the island that voted to end the 23-year rule of the Indonesian government in a 1999 election. The violence that followed, allegedly committed by Jakarta-backed gangs, made news worldwide.

Hall, from his first years in Congress took an interest in the turbulent struggle of the East Timorese. Human rights activists estimate the island lost 200,000 of its 600,000 inhabitants during its struggle with Indonesia, from war, famine and other causes.

Yearly, Hall called hearings and spoke on the House floor about East Timor concerns. He nominated Nobel Peace Prize winners from East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta and Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, for their work to end oppression there.

Hall decided to go there for the first time, before the island's first election in August.

"I have a great investment in this nation and in these people," Hall said. "I helped them when nobody had heard of them, nobody knew them, nobody was helping them and nobody was listening to them. ... I feel like, 'Gee I have got to go see them.'"

He will fly to Sydney, Australia, then to Darwin, in the northern tip of Australia, then to East Timor for two days and Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, for another two days. He returns July 9.

Hall, who will travel with an aide and an expert, author and advocate for East Timor, Arnold Kohen, plans to visit with Ramos-Horta and Belo, government officials and humanitarian and human rights groups.

Today, boosted by immigration, the island has about 600,000 people. They will vote for an assembly that will draft a constitution and start a handover from a U.N. transitional government. The island is expected to be fullly independent next year.

Contact Mei-Ling Hopgood at (202) 887-8328 or

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