Sri Lanka’s inability to constitutionally resolve ethnic demands for power-sharing and autonomy had by the 1980s led to active armed conflict and involved the regional power India in the conflict. Under Indian pressure and facilitation, the Indo-Lanka Accord was signed in 1987, which among other things obliged the Sri Lankan state to devolve power. This was undertaken through the Thirteenth Amendment, which established a system of devolution to Provincial Councils. This introduced not only a new layer of representative institutions to the architecture of the state, but devolution also had to be reconciled with the overarching principle of the unitary state. This latter aspect circumscribed the outer limits of provincial autonomy quite narrowly from the outset. Notwithstanding this, the full potential of the system has never been realised not only because of the central state’s constant efforts to claw back powers and but also because of the disinterest among Tamil nationalists in the system as being too little too late.
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.
Time and the added strain of the enlarged upper level superstructure begins to tell on the foundations of the original structure on which it is all resting, causing the radical flaw in the ground which had hitherto been ignored to become more obviously visible. Cracking and slippage in the ground must be addressed if the whole edifice is not to come tumbling down. To this end small chambers and structures are built out to hold the slippage. These structures are built out from the existing structure and are claw like elements extended out in all directions, with the hope of holding on to the slippage and getting stability. While the people have access to the new structures, since they are held up from above and structural support also from above, uncertainty as to its sustainability is very high. Access to the centres of power are also through the upper levels and thus controlled by the presidency.
The structures needed to hold these new elements in place especially from above are to be both highly over designed for the purpose and also lends a clumsy appearance to the whole whatever the efforts to make them appear a natural extension of the main structure. Other spatial changes include a more complex set of relationships between the various arms of government and the renovations made to the existing spaces to accommodate these make the structures of space increasingly indecipherable.
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.