Campaign steps up for West Java to change name to Sunda Province

Gedung Sate, a cultural landmark in the West Java capital of Bandung. Photo: Google Maps
Gedung Sate, a cultural landmark in the West Java capital of Bandung. Photo: Google Maps

West Java may undergo a fundamental change in the near future — one that has raised concerns about ethnic exclusivity in Indonesia’s most populous province.

Several public figures in the province are proposing that West Java changes its name to Sunda Province as an ode to the Sunda Kingdom that ruled the region from the seventh century to the 16th century.

“The Sunda name has long been on the world map. I worry that if we don’t use the name, Sunda will be eroded and eventually disappear. We support Sundanese figures who want to return the Sunda name to the province,” Eni Sumarni, who represents West Java in the Regional Representative Council (DPD), said recently.

Organizations representing the Sunda ethnic group say they have written a formal letter to Governor Ridwan Kamil proposing the name change and will write a proposal to President Joko Widodo soon.

Ridwan Kamil says he’s against the change as the name West Java has represented the province since 1926. Furthermore, the province is not home to just the Sundanese.

“In West Java there are three ethnic groups. There’s the Sunda Priangan (natives of the mountainous Parahyangan area in the heart of West Java), the Cirebonese who speak Javanese, and the Betawi people,” the governor told reporters yesterday.

Similarly, the Cirebon city administration has opposed the name change on ethnic exclusivity concerns.

With a population of nearly 50 million, West Java is the most populous province in Indonesia. West Java was even bigger before the turn of the millennium, as the westernmost parts of the province split away to form the Banten Province in 2000.

The Sundanese make up 79 percent of West Java’s population, followed by Javanese with 10 percent, Cirebonese with 7 percent, and Betawis with 4 percent.

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