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The Future of East Timor: An Interview with Constancio Pinto

The Council for National East Timorese Resistance (CNRT)

The Council for National East Timorese Resistance (CNRT)

In an interview with The Asia Society on October 22, 1999, the Representative of the Council for National East Timorese Resistance (CNRT) to the United Nations and North America, Constancio Pinto, addressed a number of the problems currently facing East Timor, including the composition of the UN transitional government, the role of the Falintil, and the changes within the structure of the CNRT as it transforms itself from a liberation movement to a political party or national government.

The U.N. Secretary General is expected to name the Brazilian, Sergio Vieira de Mello, as chief administrator of East Timor, at least for an initial period of up to six months. What role, if any, is the CNRT playing in determining the makeup of the interim administration?

Well, Sergio de Mello is the person who we prefer to have. Before that, the U.N. Security Council was a bit ambiguous about who was going to be the head of the transitional government in East Timor. We prefer Sergio de Mello because of his experience in Kosovo and because of his long-time experience at the U.N. dealing with political affairs and so on. So we are very happy to hear that the U.N. Secretary General appointed him to be the head of the U.N. transitional government in East Timor, at least for six months.

We in fact suggested that the U.N. should include East Timorese in the transitional government. The CNRT will form a transitional council, I have been informed, of a number of people who will be working directly with the U.N. transitional government. But at the same time the CNRT also will have a structure. I would call it transitional government, but it will not be parallel to the U.N., but like an informal group, an informal structure which would maintain close ties with the U.N. through the transitional council.

Jose Ramos Horta said recently in an interview with The Guardian that the East Timorese would not accept an ASEAN state as leader of the U.N. transitional administration because they had been "accomplices of Indonesia." Presumably the choice of a Brazilian for this position had something to do with that - that is, with the fact that Brazil, in your estimation, in the estimation of the CNRT, is not and was not an "accomplice of Indonesia"?

Yes, this is true. At this stage, there is a lack of confidence among the East Timorese people with regard to Asian countries because of their attitudes in the past towards East Timor. They've been very supportive of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. So it would be astonishing if the U.N. chose one of the Asian countries to be head of the administrative U.N. transitional government in East Timor. So that's why we're trying to avoid having an Asian there.

But I think after the Sergio de Mello administration, which will be only for six months or so, we will accept an Asian to replace Sergio de Mello. It is important because East Timor is there, it is part of Asia. We haven't ruled out the idea of applying to ASEAN membership. So I think it is good for us to begin to build some relationship with ASEAN.