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.
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.
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.
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.