When Sri Lanka’s war was fought to a bloody conclusion in 2009, there was some hope that the military defeat of Tamil secessionism would be matched by a constitutional settlement of Tamil political grievances. No such thing occurred and instead the victorious state expanded its own authoritarian potential by abolishing presidential terms limits and terminating or weakening key procedural limitations on presidential power. Taken together with attacks on the independence of the judiciary, a clampdown on social dissent, and widespread militarisation of civil administration, this instantiated an unprecedented regime of presidential authoritarianism in the country. This had the potential to fundamentally alter the trajectory of Sri Lanka’s constitutional development from one of a flawed but fairly robust South Asian democracy to a control democracy animated by populist nationalism. Fortunately, the democratic spirit and electoral traditions proved to be more firmly rooted within the polity than was thought, and the excesses generated under the post-Eighteenth Amendment constitution created the discontent necessary to see a rollback of this regime within less than five years.
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.
The expansion of the presidency is simply just that and also manifests itself in a manner that makes it more obvious than any other arm of governance sees in the structure. A massive expansion and extension in height of the structure is made to accommodate the all powerful presidency and its attendant arms of executive power and control. From the outside the whole structure is visually impenetrable, but appears as a centrifugally unifying circular structure. It's appearance certainly goes beyond the traditionally understood cultural elements of the architecture of palaces and monasteries and borders on being an ultimate symbolic object representing the highest of the high in an abstracted form.
Internally the spatial relations isolate the space of the presidency and the executive offices surrounding the presidency controls access to the space occupied by the presidency. Also while the presidency has visual control over its executive offices, spatial and physical control is limited, though access to all these areas being through a strong single space at the base of the presidency that controls this access. The legislature and the judiciary are overwhelmed by the new structures and new supports independent of the legislature have had to be erected directly from the available firm ground to support parts of it. The access to the supreme space of the judiciary is made easy from the executive where the renovations needed to the judiciary made inevitable by the damage caused by the expansion of the executive leads to the addition of a new series of stairs to access the main space. In the process the judicial structure is now a roof terrace accessed from the executive offices. Extreme strain is placed on the legislature with it the additional weight and is now completely unrecognisable even as the formative base and supporting structure on which the executive stands.
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.