Centre for Policy Alternatives on 1 December, 2012

The Sri Lankan Republic at 40: Reflections on Constitutional History, Theory and Practice

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Access the dedicated site for the book here.


It represents an experiment with publishing scholarly thinking on issues of constitutional significance in the public interest, which I hope will be successful in informing the way we approach, and think critically about, the great political issues of the day in our country. These debates are too often conducted in an environment of apathy or a lack of comparative and theoretical insights; or, in what is a disconcerting new development, straightforward untruths and deliberate disinformation, as the recent constitutional crisis with regard to the impeachment of the Chief Justice has shown. Your patronage of the site therefore is greatly appreciated and I hope it will lead to similar initiatives in the future.

In 2012, Sri Lanka marked the fortieth anniversary of the founding of its republic. With the promulgation of the first republican constitution on 22nd May 1972, Ceylon severed its remaining constitutional links with Britain that had survived the grant of independence as a dominion in 1948.

Both the process adopted in the making of that constitution as well as its substance were historic – a decisive ‘constitutional moment’ – reflecting dramatic political currents that had dominated the late-colonial and post-independence period. It established a constitutional order that has, despite being replaced by a second republican constitution in 1978, retained its essential substantive character as a highly centralised unitary state to the present.

In terms of both the consolidation of constitutional democracy and in addressing the challenges of ethnic, religious and cultural pluralism that post-war Sri Lanka must settle in order that causes of past conflict are not reproduced in the future, the historical, political and constitutional issues that prevailed in 1972 are as relevant as ever.

This two-volume edited collection brings together a series of reflections on those issues – now available in electronic form through this site – by a distinguished group of Sri Lankan and international scholars from multiple disciplines as well as political practitioners, with a view to informing the contemporary debate on strengthening democracy, constitutionalism, and reconciling the constitutional form of the Sri Lankan state with its rich societal pluralism.

I have acknowledged in my Editor’s Introduction to the book, albeit inadequately, the support I have been fortunate to receive from my colleagues at the Centre for Policy alternatives (CPA). However, this dedicated website for the book – its inspiration, creation, activation, and indeed, maintenance – has been something that has been led by my old colleague and even older friend, Sanjana Hattotuwa. Sanjana has assisted me with his technical expertise in every book I have published with CPA, and it has been no different with Republic at 40. I perceived, however, a greater sense of enthusiasm on his part with this project, and it was perhaps from this that the idea for the website flowed. He deserves much praise for all his efforts in putting this site together, and my grateful thanks. Our partnership is one that commenced as co-editors of The S. Thomas’ College Magazine in the mid-1990s – and purely from self-interest, I earnestly hope it continues.

I hope you enjoy the site and its contents, and I look forward to receiving your comments. I hope even more that the many excellent chapters in it will receive the scholarly and critical attention they deserve.

Thank you.

Asanga Welikala

Editor, (2012) The Sri Lankan Republic at 40: Reflections on Constitutional History, Theory and Practice (Colombo: Centre for Policy Alternatives).