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Cablegate: The Peace Corps in Indonesia


DE RUEHJA #2185/01 2220921
P 100921Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Dear Director Tschetter, I want to thank you personally for
sending the superb Peace Corps Assessment Team here to Indonesia
last February. The Team was able to travel through six provinces
over two weeks and meet a wide variety of local leaders,
international volunteers, and government officials while observing
outstanding programs and communities. The many people they met
still warmly recall their visit and wait in anticipation for a new
Peace Corps program in Indonesia. The Assessment Team themselves
expressed surprise at the 30-year absence of the Peace Corps in such
an ideal environment. The Team saw first hand what we in Indonesia
see every day: the incredible diversity, positive potential, and
genuine need for a Peace Corps program in Indonesia. A Peace Corps
presence in Indonesia would clearly be a win-win for both sides.
2. (SBU) We were disappointed to learn the Assessment Team did not
recommend Peace Corps entry at this time, due to security concerns,
despite the conclusion that Indonesia is ideal in every other way.
As the world's largest Muslim-majority nation and a tolerant, modern
democracy, Indonesia does indeed provide an ideal environment to,
"encourage development and education and opportunity in the Islamic
world" as President Bush called for in his 2002 State of the Union
speech. Indonesia also provides the ideal environment for the work
that Peace Corps Volunteers do so well: promote a better
understanding of Americans and America in the countries served and
gain a better understanding of the culture in which they serve.
3. (SBU As a former Peace Corps Volunteer yourself, you understand
the deep personal impact brought about by two cultures living and
working side by side. As an RPCV myself, I believe the time has
come for Peace Corps to re-enter and re-engage this moderate Muslim
democracy. To that end, I urge you to send an Assessment Team to
Indonesia to address any security concerns that you may have.
Together we can find solutions to protect the safety and security of
Volunteers while enabling them to carry out their important work in
Indonesian communities.
4. (SBU) The threat of terrorism is a serious concern in Indonesia,
as it is in many countries in which the Peace Corps operates. Just
as in Thailand and the Philippines, there are parts of Indonesia
where Peace Corps Volunteers could not work. The Mission treats
security concerns very seriously and Mission Security is robust and
proactive in monitoring security conditions and disseminating
security information to Mission personnel and to the estimated
10,000 Americans that live and work in Indonesia. Regional Security
Officers (RSOs) work closely with Indonesian National Police (INP),
foreign Missions, and security personnel at private organizations to
gather information, mitigate threats and protect Mission personnel.
RSOs also brief incoming personnel and conduct community outreach to
over 500 Mission personnel and hundreds of USG visitors, in large
cities and remote destinations, from Aceh to Papua
5. (SBU) There are more than 120 USG funded Americans working
independently throughout Indonesia. Most analogous to Peace Corps
Volunteers are the forty-two English Language Fellows (ELFs) and
English Teaching Assistants (ETAs). ETA and ELF Fulbright programs
place recently graduated students in villages and universities
throughout the archipelago with little contact with Americans or
urban areas. Much like Peace Corps Volunteers, ELFs and ETAs are
encouraged to become a part of their local communities and cooperate
with local leaders for program success. Their security largely
comes from their close ties to the communities in which they live,
however there is regular contact between them and the regional
security officer. This year we doubled the number of people
participating in this program, including sending people for the
first time to the province of Ambon. To date the ETA and ELF
programs have proved to be so successful, the demand for these
volunteers is ten times the supply. Peace Corps Volunteers can help
fill some of the need.
6. (SBU) Other organizations, such as Volunteers in Asia (VIA),
Australian, and UN Volunteers, place many volunteers throughout
Indonesia and follow similar security procedures. UN Volunteers are
concentrated in Indonesia's underdeveloped eastern regions,
including Papua. These volunteers receive security briefings,
frequent updates, and are issued failsafe radios for regular
security checks. If needed, local police are also alerted to their
presence. To date, both VIA and UN Volunteers plan to expand their
programs and are committed to serving local communities in more
remote areas of Indonesia.
7. (SBU) Robert Taft once said, "In the Peace Corps we present a
different image of America. The Peace Corps breaks down the
stereotypes and turns an American into a fellow human being." And
all it takes is one American in a local community to do so. In
Central Java, a young American teacher with Volunteers in Asia lives
and teaches art at a local Islamic boarding school. I have attached
an article about this young man showing the difference in community
perceptions and his perceptions in one short year. He is winning
hearts and minds, and no where is it more necessary to, "extend the
compassion of our country", and "renew the promise of the Peace
Corps," than in this modern Muslim-majority nation of 240 million
people. The Peace Corps prides itself on the dynamic, innovative
and intrepid nature of the men and women who volunteer and Indonesia
offers a public service opportunity commensurate with those traits.
No country is without risk, but measured against the enormous
potential positive impact, Mr. Director, Indonesia deserves a second
look. I hope to welcome an Assessment Team to Indonesia this fall.

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