The January 2015 presidential election saw the victory of the common opposition on a platform that had constitution reform, and in particular the reform or abolition of the executive presidency, as its centrepiece. Notwithstanding various compromises during its drafting, the recently enacted Nineteenth Amendment represents a substantial change for the better in Sri Lanka’s governing arrangements. In the best possible reading, the President no longer commands, but has to work in cooperation with a Cabinet of Ministers that is responsible to Parliament. This can be seen as restoring a semblance of balance to a constitution that had given the presidency overwhelming pre-eminence before. It has reduced the terms of both President and Parliament to five years from the previous six, it has provided that these terms are (more or less) fixed, and it has reintroduced the two-term limit on presidential office. It has made the President’s exercise of power susceptible to the fundamental rights jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Re-empowered independent commissions would oversee key state services and the Constitutional Council will regulate presidential appointments. Thus the Nineteenth Amendment establishes both a better structural balance between the executive and the legislature, and a substantial framework for de-politicisation. It will have to be seen how well it is implemented.
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 removal of some of the spatial relations related to the hyper presidential situation can only be seen as a reduction of the stresses placed on the original foundations and flaws. While this will certainly prolong the life of the structure to a degree, the fundamental flaws existing in the ground continue to exist and are now more that ever visible for all to see. While the grand structure of Presidentialism managed to hide some of the flaws by distraction, what now happens is that the flaws are much more obvious and the dismantling of some of the structures could prove to be difficult and in some situations perhaps impossible. The drawings begin to suggest what the new scenario could look like, but because the fundamental flaws still remain the suggestion may be to strip the structure down to basics and start again by addressing the ground conditions, but even here, instead of the expensive underpinning of the existing structures, it may be more viable to demolish and build anew a structure that addresses all the issues including those of the site.
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.