Mahinda Rajapaksa has many positive characteristics which helped him rise to power. However, as I have written before, he succumbed to his negative characteristics while he was in power. His pride, stubbornness and misplaced faith in his ability to judge other people were what brought about his downfall.
Most importantly, he became unable to distinguish between friends and enemies.
In his eyes, those around him could be divided into two neat categories – those who were loyal to him, and those who were disloyal.
To fall into the “loyal” camp and therefore receive his unlimited support and state largesse, one had to simply agree with everything he said and did. If some family member or other “adviser” suggested a course of action, and if it made sense to Rajapaksa, then the “loyal” follower simply had to be a yes-man, grin and nod along, no matter how damaging that policy would be.
To fall into the “disloyal” camp, one had only to show the slightest disagreement or criticism, even if that criticism was intended to stop an unpopular course of action, or to make Rajapaksa’s position stronger in the long-run.
No matter how long one was in the “loyal” camp, even the quietest whisper from a family member or “adviser” that the “loyal” person might have political ambitions (even without any evidence), was enough for that person to be thrown into the “disloyal” camp. Then he or she would be an outcast.
It was the “loyal” people who grinned and nodded along with his stupid idea to go ahead with a rushed election 3 years ahead of schedule. It was these “loyal” people who said his political enemies were weak. It was the “loyal” people who told him that the north and east would vote for him.
And it was a “loyal” person who had “loyally” stood by him for 10 years, who “loyally” ate appa with him, before carrying out the greatest betrayal in Sri Lanka’s post-independence history.
At the moment, the same terrible sequence is being repeated.
As leader of the Joint Opposition, Rajapaksa is making multiple mistakes – mistakes which will not just imperil the country but also the Rajapaksa family itself.
Pointing out these mistakes and suggesting alternate courses of action leads to accusations from “loyal” people that this valid criticism of Rajapaksa’s past and present follies are the deeds of nefarious “disloyal” people who wish to undermine Rajapaksa.
But the truth is that it is precisely these “loyal” people who are “loyally” praising Rajapaksa as a faultless man and playing to Rajapaksa’s character flaws who are the real enemy. It is these “loyal” people who are the real NGO and UNP agents.
If they succeed in silencing Rajapaksa’s critics, and if they are able to close his eyes to the mistakes he made and is still making, it is they and the anti-National forces embodied by Ranil and Sirisena who stand to gain.
Rajapaksa’s greatest weakness is his penchant for obsequious sycophancy. He enjoys being sucked up to and being told that he is always right. His enemies know that the best way to derail Rajapaksa’s political comeback is to simply pretend to be “loyal” and continuously whitewash his many past mistakes and praise his present self-damaging actions.
Rajapaksa’s enemies want him to continue making the same mistakes. They want him to think that a deal with Sirisena is possible, or that he can recapture power within the SLFP and take over. They sit there and pretend to be “loyal” but really they are weakening him and strengthening Sirisena and Ranil.
That is why these fake “loyal” people try to shut down debate and block sensible plans of action. That is why they call sincere supporters “disloyal” or “UNP agents.” That is why they try to deflect from the important messages the sincere patriots try to put across, by asking questions about the messenger.
The loyal vs disloyal division is a simple system from an unsophisticated era. It is not fit for purpose in the post-2015 era.
It is the solemn duty of any patriot to criticize those who are meant to represent and lead us, if those leaders stray from the path of national sovereignty due to foolishness, idiocy, stupidity or delusion.
The age-old proverb says “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Sadly Rajapaksa has surrounded himself with enemies who he thinks are friends. He will continue to make major mistakes if he listens to them.
It is up to patriots to criticize him, show him his errors, and correct him. Uncritically worshiping him will doom everyone.