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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)

Could you also just comment briefly on what you think the situation in East Timor is now, both vis-à-vis the presence of the Indonesian military (as well as the pro-Jakarta militias), and the refugees returning from West Timor?

There are still some Indonesian army personnel in East Timor but not that many. They are waiting for the last order from Jakarta so they can pack and leave. So I think within three months from now all of the remaining army will leave from East Timor.

The militias, yes, they remain a threat for us, especially at the borders between East Timor and West Timor. The Indonesian army promised to disarm the militias, but they still haven't done it. There are still militias running around, in and out of East and West Timor. So they will constitute a threat for East Timor, but I don't think that they will be a major one. The militias talk about launching guerilla warfare in East Timor, but I don't think it's going to be a successful one because they have no support. The people will not support them. The reason why the Falintil army resists up to this day is because of the support of the people, the population. So if the militia wanted to launch guerilla warfare in East Timor, it would not have any great impact on security in East Timor.

The main problem in East Timor is of humanitarian aid. We received some phone calls from East Timor, I personally got calls from East Timor, saying that there is now plenty of food, but the distribution of food and medicine is not, let's say, equal… many people are still waiting for food and other goods necessary for them. They still lack it.

So I hope that by next month or so stores will reopen. People can get on with their businesses as before so that people can buy food or clothes or whatever they need.

This is the humanitarian side but at the same time we are trying to put together our ideas and our views about the future of East Timor. It's not going to be an easy task for the East Timorese. It was easy to say that we want independence, but now that we got independence we have to make sure that the process runs smoothly.

How many people are involved in the CNRT who could potentially form part of both the transitional government and then go on to, say, join the future civil administration? How many people do you think in the CNRT now are able, willing and qualified to do that?

Well, the CNRT is a coalition organization, comprised of political parties and is a non-partisan organization. So the CNRT doesn't require registration or membership, it is a coalition and is open to everyone. The structure of the organization has changed during the course of our struggle and is currently comprised of the following: (1) National Political Commission; (2) National Executive Commission; and (3) Judicial Commision. Under each of these commissions, there are departments such as foreign affairs, finance, education, etc. and the members of each commission have been elected by a plenary of participants from various organizations in East Timor and abroad. So it is very difficult for us to say now who will work for CNRT.

And because of this, the complexity of the organization, we are planning to have probably -- it's not definite -- a congress of the CNRT. So within this congress we will determine how the CNRT is going to function and how many people will be working for the CNRT.

There are many, many Timorese who studied abroad and also in Indonesia in different areas who might be able to work for the government. The only problem we have is the experience. We, most of us, are kind of academic, we have no experience in politics. So it's going to be difficult and that's why we need some training, and I hope that the U.N. will also train Timorese during the transitional period so that we can take over from the U.N. when the time comes.