Headlines

US, RI relaunch Peace
Corps program after 46
years

Indonesia and the United States signed an agreement Friday to relaunch the Peace Corps program that was halted in the 1960s over political tension between the two countries at the peak of the Cold War.

The agreement will facilitate some 25 American volunteers to teach English in 25 schools and institutions in East Java, including Madura Island.

Retno L.P. Marsudi, the Foreign Ministry's director general for American and European affairs, told reporters after the signing that the new Peace Corps activi-ties would increase people-to-people contact between the two countries.

"The *current* Peace Corps will be different from those in the 1960s. At that time, the idea of the Peace Corps mission here was to contain the influence of communism.

The present Peace Corps is aimed at increasing people-to-people contact ... we want them to work in educational areas," she said.

The first Peace Corps volunteers arrived in 1963 to train Indonesian athletes gearing up for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, which ended up being boycotted by Jakarta.

The sports and physical education mission was terminated in 1965 over accusations that they were aiming to spy on the Indonesian government and the Communist movement in the country.

"From the beginning, we have sent a very clear message *to Washington* that the *new* Peace Corps mission has to be different from the past one.

"It has to be in line with our national interests, with its focus on people-to-people contact," Retno said.

The relaunch of the Peace Corps program is part of the recent comprehensive partnership between Jakarta and Washington that also covers clean energy projects, education and counterterrorism.

"Education is among our priority programs and we want it to be the focus of our bilateral coo-peration with the United States," Retno said.

When asked how much access the Peace Corps would get across the country, where some impoverished provinces remained volatile and sensitive to separatism issues, Retno said Indonesia would ensure the Peace Corps work fell within the agreed areas.

Ken Puvak, Peace Corps country director in Indonesia, said the first group of volunteers would arrive in April next year and start teaching in July.

"They are going to spend 27 months here ... The first three months is for them to learn the Indonesian language and about the culture," he said.

He said the volunteers would live at a local level to help them integrate with the people.

Puvak said East Java and Madura were locations identified by the Indonesian government for the Peace Corps' first batch but it had no further plans as yet to expand the program to other provinces.

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