At just 14 years old, Hamka is too young to vote and he doesn't know much about politics. So he was mainly aligning himself with his father's political preferences this week when he donned the colors of Golkar, Indonesia's ruling party, by wrapping a yellow sarong around his waist.
It turned out to be a near-fatal mistake.
Riding in a Golkar caravan, Hamka was seriously injured when the vehicle he was in was attacked by members of an opposition party. They slashed Hamka's yellow sarong, and left a deep knife wound in his belly. Today, after emergency surgery, he was lying on his side in a hospital intensive care unit, spitting blood into a tin tray.
It's dangerous to be a Golkar supporter these days, even here in South Sulawesi, supposedly a Golkar stronghold and the home province of President B.J. Habibie, the party's candidate for a full five-year term in the impending elections.
Ujung Pandang is one of the few cities in the country that has proudly draped itself in yellow -- banners, flags and placards -- to remind people to vote for Golkar, party No. 33 on the ballot, on Monday. And Golkar supporters are unabashed in their affection for their favorite son. A banner near the city's airport proclaims: "B.J. Habibie -- Leader of Today and Tomorrow!"
But even here, Golkar is feeling the deep popular resentment generated by its three decades as the main political prop of ex-president Suharto and his corrupt, discredited New Order regime. Golkar supporters have been attacked with knives and arrows and officials' houses have been stoned. Ten of the 21 people seriously injured in campaign violence have been Golkar supporters, according to police. The Jakarta Post reported today that more than 30 Golkar supporters were injured in clashes with rivals during Thursday's campaign rally.
That anti-Golkar rage spilled onto the streets of the capital, Jakarta, today, as the ruling party staged its final rally before the voting. Opposition party supporters burned Golkar flags, torched a motorcycle and threw stones at Golkar members organizing a car caravan.
Police in one area of Jakarta had to fire warning shots to disperse anti-Golkar crowds.
Golkar managed to draw only about 10,000 people to Jakarta's streets for its final rally today. By comparison, the popular opposition leader, Megawati Sukarnoputri, drew an estimated 1 million people on Thursday, the last campaign day for her People's Democratic Party of Struggle, known here as PDI-P. The party is widely expected to win a plurality in the parliamentary voting, which would make her the front-runner to become president later this year.
The Golkar chairman, Akbar Tanjung, predicted that the party will win 30 to 40 percent of the vote. That estimate may be high, but politicians and others caution that Golkar can count on strong residual support, particularly in outlying areas of the main island, Java, and among people who have benefited from the old system.
But most independent analysts expect Golkar to be soundly defeated, perhaps winning 20 percent or less of the vote -- a major comedown from the years when the party rolled up totals of 70 percent or more under an authoritarian system that made sure election outcomes were decided largely in advance.
If there's anyplace where Golkar is expected to do well, it is here in South Sulawesi. And the largest factor appears to be regional loyalty to Habibie, Indonesia's third president and the first not to come from Java.
"It's because of Habibie," said Wahab, father of Hamka, the wounded boy explaining why he supported the ruling party. "He's from this area and he's in a top position."
The Matto family might be considered typical Golkar stalwarts, with their support mainly based on family ties to the system the ruling party helped maintain. Mati Matto said she backs Golkar because most of her relatives are either military officers or state employees. "We shouldn't let our relatives down," she said.
Her husband, Bakri, is a day laborer who supports Golkar because "they've got good programs, and the one at the top is originally from our hometown."
But the Matto family has learned the hazards of openly supporting Golkar in an era of political change. Their 13-year-old son, Nurhamid Matto, was riding atop a truck in a Golkar caravan and wearing a yellow Golkar T-shirt, when someone shot an arrow through the right side of his chest.
"After I got shot, people were all over," Nurhamid said from his hospital bed, where he is recovering. "I couldn't see who shot me."
Sajaruddin Razak, who runs a small car rental company, is a man divided. He likes Megawati and thinks her party should win the parliamentary ballot. But he also likes Habibie, and believes he should remain president.
"There are a lot of parties promising a lot of things," he said. "But Habibie is the only one who has a proven record. Golkar never caused any big problems in Indonesia. No matter how you look at it, the situation in Indonesia before the reform was much, much better, much more peaceful, than now."
CAPTION: An Indonesian soldier fails to prevent demonstrators from destroying campaign flags of the ruling Golkar party during a Jakarta rally yesterday. Soon after, anti-riot troops were called to drive off the demonstrators.
CAPTION: Golkar party supporters chant in Jakarta yesterday, marking an end to Indonesia's first parliamentary campaign since Suharto left office.
CAPTION: Clad in Golkar party uniforms, young people gather in central Jakarta to learn their roles in the final rally of the election campaign.