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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)

On a related note, what role do you see for the Falintil guerrillas once the transitional administration comes into force? Do you agree that they ought to be disarmed, as the U.N. has suggested?

Well, the Falintil has demonstrated their discipline throughout the year, throughout the conflict, especially when the violence erupted after the vote. They've been very disciplined. They are the ones who protected the population.

And when Interfet -- the U.N. multinational troops -- went to East Timor, the Falintil also tried to work with the U.N. multinational troops. At this moment they are still kept in their cantonment, and I don't think that there is enough reason to disarm them during the transitional period.

What the U.N. should do perhaps is to ask them to be the future East Timor police force or self-defense army. This is what the U.N. should do, because when the U.N. peacekeeping force accomplishes its mission in East Timor, it will have to withdraw from East Timor. If the Falintil are asked, then we will already have a police force that will be able to maintain law and order in East Timor.

Could you please comment on the recent decision by the CNRT to adopt a new currency tied to the Portuguese escudo?

This is in fact a very delicate issue. We discussed with the International Monetary Fund the possibility of either continuing with the rupiah or adopting a new currency. We talked about having the U.S. dollar as the currency throughout the transitional period, but also we talked about the escudo.

The only problem with the rupiah is that the currency is very weak, and the economy of Indonesia is not stable yet. Also to have the rupiah in East Timor we would have to negotiate with Indonesia. There has to be some kind of agreement between East Timor and Indonesia or between the U.N. and Indonesia about this.

But I think we opted for the escudo because Portugal has decided to fund for two years or three years of transitional period, the whole budget for East Timor. And also the Portuguese government is now willing to pay the salary of the East Timorese companies, employers, the ones who worked for Indonesia. So the Portuguese government will pay for that.

And also one of the reasons to adopt escudos is that we still have some Brazilian escudos, because in 1975 Portugal left a chunk of money, so we want to get them back so they can be used in East Timor. That's still for the transitional period. After that we might adopt new currency or continue with escudos. And you know the escudo is very powerful currency compared to Indonesian rupiah.