Remembering what Chomsky does to help people in countless places

As Noam Chomsky prepares to arrive in Australia later in the year to receive the Sydney Peace Prize, haters routinely forget the tireless work by the American intellectual behind the scenes on behalf of those persecuted by governments. This campaigning is rarely acknowledged and it often comes at some personal cost. Below is one case in literally thousands. It was published in the Sunday Age in 1997. I’m told the man mentioned was eventually brought to safety:

An Indonesian embassy official has sought political asylum in South Africa, claiming to have classified documents detailing official corruption in his country and evidence of human rights violations in Indonesian-ruled East Timor.

The official, Stany Aji, said he had been assisting the pro-democracy movement in Indonesia and had been in contact with Guruh Sukarnoputra, former opposition parliamentarian and brother of pro-democracy leader Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Marco Boni, a spokesman for South Africa’s Foreign Ministry, confirmed yesterday that an application for asylum had been received from Aji, who had been working in the trade section of the Indonesian embassy. “Our Home Affairs Department is considering the case at the moment,” he told ‘The Sunday Age’.

Aji, who has been in hiding since his activities were discovered, appealed last week for urgent help via the Internet, sending a message to US academic Professor Noam Chomsky of Boston. Chomsky is known as a strong critic of the Indonesian regime and has intervened in previous bids for political asylum by East European and Latin American dissidents.

“(South Africa) has so far not given me any guarantee of granting asylum due to the fact that South Africa wants to hold on to good relations with Indonesia,” Aji said in his plea to Chomsky. “The information that I hold would most definitely break this illusory and temporary state of good relations with the Indonesian Government.”

Chomsky later sought help from a number of colleagues around the world, including Deakin University academic Scott Burchill. “He said the fellow seemed to be in a bit of trouble,” said Burchill, a lecturer in international relations. “The official also wanted to contact Jose Ramos Horta, who Chomsky thought was still in Australia.”

Ramos Horta, who lives in Sydney but spends much of the year travelling, is an exiled East Timorese resistance leader who shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with the territory’s Catholic bishop, Carlos Belo. He was in Australia until last week.

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