Cablegate: An Opportunity to Finalize Peace Corps Agreement With

DE RUEHJA #1861 3131351
O 091351Z NOV 09




E.O. 12598: N/A
SUBJECT: An Opportunity to Finalize Peace Corps Agreement with

1. (SBU) We have an opportunity to advance U.S.-Indonesian
relations by completing a Peace Corps agreement in time for a joint
announcement by President Obama and President Yudhoyono at the APEC
Summit in Singapore this week. There is only one remaining issue
left preventing an agreement. It can be resolved by granting Peace
Corps Director Aaron Williams' request that the State Department
issue Official Passports to Peace Corps Volunteers assigned to
Indonesia. This is a reasonable and necessary final step for Peace
Corps to establish a long overdue program in Indonesia.

2. (SBU) Indonesia's laws and regulations do not accommodate
U.S.-funded persons to reside and work in Indonesia with
non-official passports. Non-official passport holders are subject
to visa, tax and other administrative requirements that would place
an undue burden on Peace Corps and prevent it from developing a
robust program in Indonesia. For example, Volunteers would be
subject to visa fees and limited durations of stay that would
require Peace Corps to fund Volunteer travel outside of Indonesia
for visa renewals to complete their service. The costs and
administrative burdens would restrain Peace Corps ability to grow in
Indonesia beyond a modest size. But a country the size of Indonesia
requires a Peace Corps program of a much grander scale.

3. (SBU) The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), an
organization comparable to Peace Corps, faced the same problem with
its Volunteers. JICA solved it by making an exception to issue
Official Passports to Volunteers assigned to Indonesia. JICA
realized that that issuing Official Passports was the only
affordable means to operate effectively in Indonesia. We are not
asking that Official Passports be issued to Volunteers in every
Peace Corps country. However, we know from the experience of the
Japanese that it is appropriate, and effective, in Indonesia.

4. (SBU) Unfortunately, the initial determination from Consular
Affairs was to disallow Peace Corps request, arguing that Department
regulations only allow issuance of Official Passports to USG
officials and employees. However, under the Peace Corps Act,
Volunteers are considered federal employees for numerous legal
purposes. Volunteers receive federal pension benefits, federal
health care, and federal compensation in the form of a readjustment
allowance. Volunteers also take an oath of loyalty to the U.S.
Government and are treated as federal employees by our embassies.
When Peace Corps was founded, it was appropriate to maintain
distinctions, some more symbolic than others, between Volunteers and
Official Americans. However, times have changed and issuing
Official Passports does not change the role or function of the

5. (SBU) If this final issue is positively addressed, we can
complete an agreement that will allow Peace Corps, over time, to
develop an appropriately sized program for the world's third largest
democracy and largest Muslim-majority country. If the Peace Corps
can deliver good news to the Indonesians during negotiations this
week, it will also be possible to complete this agreement in time to
be announced by both presidents at the APEC Summit. An announcement
that Peace Corps would return to Indonesia after a 40 year absence
would deepen the impact of President Obama's upcoming bilateral with
President Yudhoyono. And while there are no confirmed plans for
President Obama to visit Indonesia, President Yudhoyono has invited
him to visit next year and an established Peace Corps program could
be a highlight of that trip.

© Scoop Media

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