The executive presidency was actually introduced by the Second Amendment to the 1972 Constitution soon after the 1977 general election, but the full presidential state was established a few months later with the promulgation of the 1978 Constitution. Presidentialism represented a radical departure from the models of executive collegiality that had hitherto characterized the constitutional forms of Ceylon and Sri Lanka since the introduction of universal electoral democracy in 1931. Under diarchic executive under the 1931 Constitution was a quasi-Cabinet, which was meant to train local politicians in operating the Westminster system, which in turn was introduced by the 1946-8 Constitution and was continued when the country became a republic. Presidentialism had no precedent in the modern constitutional tradition of the country, and therefore it was culturally legitimated by reference to the much older political tradition of the ancient Sinhala-Buddhist monarch. The monarchical presidency has since come to dominate both institutional relations within Sri Lanka’s system of government, as well as the landscape of electoral politics more broadly, and it has under some Presidents further eroded the republican character of the polity. As a result, ever since its introduction, there has been vigorous debate about the adverse consequences of executive presidentialism from the perspectives of both democracy and pluralism.
As noted at the outset, the promulgation of the 1972 Constitution established the Republic of Sri Lanka. This was the first time in the history of the island that the republican form of state was established (discounting the period under which parts of the littoral were controlled by the Dutch East India Company during the time the Netherlands were a confederated republic). Formally, this meant that the head of state was no longer a hereditary monarch, and substantively, that the new Sri Lankan republic was entirely legally autochthonous, i.e., there was no longer any constitutional link to a foreign country and that the states power derived exclusive from the people of Sri Lanka. More normatively, however, due to the exclusionary nature of the new state, its republican credentials have always been open to question. In political philosophy, a republic is defined by the commitment of the state to the principle of non-domination. This means that democratic majoritarianism has always to be balanced and countervailed by minority protection devices (‘minority’ here defined as the section of the population that is not within the democratic majority in any decision of political significance). As is clear from the discussion above, the Sri Lankan state is a republic only in the formalistic sense of not having a monarchy at its head; by every other normative reckoning, it is not a republic at all, but an ethnocracy in which the politically dominant ethnicity is constitutionally privileged.
The fundamental and therefore most visible change to the structure that occurs with the new relationships brought about with the introduction of Presidentialism is the access the upper level has directly from outside. The presidency which was hitherto a small institution represented in the structure on a modest scale is enlarged to reach the very edges of the lower building and in fact overwhelming it with roof structure that come out to shelter the access stairs to the upper level from outside. The process of expansion also compromises the judiciary, the roof of which requires some changes. The access to the judiciary from the presidency is also made grander with a new staircase which partly hinders the direct access provided to the people.
With the executive power being changed to be headed by the presidency, stronger links between the spaces housing executive power on the lower level are made through corner staircases and outer corridors, accessing these without going through the main legislative chamber. This new access way reduces the transparency of the legislature and thus governance itself. The added weight is made without recourse to any structural changes to the existing building.
The outer appearance of the building continues with the style and form of the previous structure, simply by expanding the upper level. This makes the whole appear to be one unitary structure dominated by the upper level with its extended roofs and grand staircases. The lower level structure disappears into insignificance in this new scheme of things.
The structure here is seen as a series of simple relationships between the three instruments or branches of government, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The supreme power of the people is represented in the open sided structure that is the legislature, the executive power too lies in it, though a ceremonial presidency is placed atop this to represent the leadership of the executive and approached through and from it and derives its power and is supported by the lower level structure, the legislature. The judiciary also deriving its power from the legislature is however seen to be separate and distinct and is approached from the legislature through a clearly structured access as it is from the presidency. A separate independent access is provided for the people to the judiciary which allows for redress of injustices that may arise from the abuse of state power.
In outward appearance the building represents a singular view of a majoritarian government and projects a homogenous style except in the Judiciary which is clearly manifest as different. The architectural style adopted here is the one most commonly associated with the royal and monastic buildings of the past.