Galactic Polities and the Decentralisation of Administration in Sri Lanka: The Buddha Does Not Always Have to Return to the Centre
The postcolonial ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka is a crisis of the postcolonial state, a state which has been unable to break away from the mirror of the centralised British colonial state. Like most postcolonial polities in South and Southeast Asia, a dominant feature of the Sri Lankan state is its highly personalised patron-clientalist nature. Far from been neutral and restricted in its performative capacity by the liberal restrictions of the rule of law, the postcolonial state in Sri Lanka has characterised itself by its capacity to capture and transform the social and cultural domain. Consequently, the dynamics of the state have become thoroughly embedded in the social and cultural life of the Sinhala, predominantly Buddhist, majority. Given the hierarchical nature of these practices, which are very much cosmologically ordained by the form of Buddhism that has come to dominate Sinhala life, the state too, in its everyday practices - be they legal, economic or social - has become motivated by this hierarchical logic. It is this hierarchical dynamic which has inhibited the state from devising administrative techniques which would answer the desire from the minority communities for a devolution of power from the centre. While the state articulates at an ontological level the hierarchical and encompassing dynamic of the Buddhist cosmos, the precolonial galactic polities of Sri Lanka encapsulated, in terms of both their geographical and administrative organisation, the non-hierarchical and diffusive dynamic of the Buddhist cosmos. This dynamic has been consistently repressed in the discourse of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.
Griffith Law Review