Historical Kaleidoscope of Sorong, the Second Largest City in West Papua

West Papua
Sumber : Grid

Located on the western tip of Indonesia’s easternmost Island, Sorong is the second-largest city in West Papua after Jayapura City. It is strategically a sea gateway and transit to the province, not to mention the most well-known Raja Ampat tourist destination.  

West Papua
Sumber : Tagar

Sorong increasingly becomes a city of trade, industry, and services. It is mainly thanks to other surrounding regencies that have great potential for natural resources. Also, we can date it back to its history.

Sorong and Its Origin Name

Sorong got his name originated from the word “Soren.” It is a Biak Numfor language that means “the deepest and surging ocean.”  In ancient times, the Biak Numfor tribe sailed to different islands until they arrived in the Raja Ampat Islands and finally decided to settle down there. 

They first used “Soren” to name after a place called “Daratan Maladum.” After centuries, the pronunciation further changed into “Sorong.” It was particularly due to contacts with the Chinese merchants, European missionaries, and Maluku and Sangihe-Talaud people who came to West Papua

Sorong during the Colonial Periods

Sorong gained its title as the Oil City since the coming of Dutch petroleum surveyors in 1908. They come especially after the discovery of oil sources in this region in the late 19th century. 

And since 1935, the Dutch oil company—the Nederlands Nieuw Guinea Maatschappij (NNGPM)—conducted petroleum drilling activities. The Dutch government also established this city as the BPM (Bataafse Petroleum Maatschappij) base camp.

That is one reason why today Sorong is one of the cities in West Papua, or even Indonesia, famous for historical remnants of the oil company. 

Interestingly, the Dutch East Indies centered the administration activities on an island called Doom or Dum Island. Located directly facing Sorong city, this island became the central capital of Sorong in 1935.

In the pre-independence period, Doom Island was one of the developed cities in the eastern part of Indonesia. It had good infrastructures that even exceeded many cities in Java. The ruler at that time considered it as a strategic asset or place as the main shipping lane of trade.

During the Japanese colonial time, Doom Island was an administrative and defensive area to confront the Allied counterattacks from Australia. 

Sorong – The Second Largest City in West Papua, Indonesia

Sorong was originally one of the sub-districts in West Papua that developed into the center of the Sorong Regency government. 

This city obtained a new status as the Administrative City of Sorong following Government Regulation No. 31 of 1996. On 3 June 1996, the Minister of Home Affairs of the Republic Indonesia (on behalf of the President of the Republic Indonesia) carried the official city inauguration. 

Furthermore, under Law no. 45 of 1999, it awarded an upgrade for Sorong Administrative City as a fully autonomous region, namely Sorong City. It consisted of two districts and nine villages. The inauguration of the first Mayor, Drs. J. A. Jumame, was on 12 October 1999 in Jakarta. Finally, on 28 February 2000, Sorong City officially separated itself from Sorong Regency, with Sorong as its capital city.

The national urban system has designated Sorong City as a National Activity Center (PKN). The Medium-Term National Development Plan (RPJMN) 2015–2019 has included the city as one of the priority locations. 

The RPJMN orientation is to develop more processing industry activities, such as environment-friendly mining, forestry, and fishing products. Also, the target is to make Sorong city the main hub for Papua and Maluku.

Last but not least, the National Regional Spatial Plan has designated Sorong as one of the areas in West Papua that will boost the growth of urban development areas. Continuing the city’s strategic location and role, those areas will be centers for economic growth, primacy service, and pillars for the nation’s development, especially at border areas.