Beyond the liberal paradigm: the constitutional accommodation of national pluralism in Sri Lanka
Welikala, Asanga Sanjiv
This thesis concerns the theoretical issues that arise in the application of the constitutional model known as the plurinational state, developed through the experience of such Western liberal democratic states as Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom, to non-Western contexts of national pluralism through the case study of Sri Lanka. There are two closely intertwined and complementary objectives to the thesis. Firstly, to provide a fresh analytical and prescriptive framework of understanding and potential solutions to the constitutionally unresolved problem of national pluralism in Sri Lanka that has so far only generated protracted conflict. Secondly and more importantly, to contribute in more general terms to the theoretical literature on plurinational constitutionalism by way of the comparative insights generated through applying the model to an empirical context that is fundamentally different in a number of ways to that from which it originally emerged. In this latter, comparative, exercise, there are three key empirical grounds of difference that are identified in the thesis. Firstly, the difference between the sociological character of nationalisms in the two contexts, defined at the most basic level by the civic-ethnic dichotomy; secondly, the different meanings of democratic modernity in the present, determined by colonial modernity and post-colonial ethnocracy; and thirdly, the differences in the substantive content of democracy as between liberal and nonliberal democracies. The thesis argues that the plurinational state may be adapted to have a role and relevance beyond Western conditions, by addressing the theoretical issues that arise from these divergences. In doing so, it seeks to demonstrate that ethnic forms of nationalism are not necessarily inconsistent with the plurinational logic of accommodation; that an exploration of pre-colonial history reveals indigenous forms of the state that are more consistent with plurinational ideals than the classical modernist Westphalian nation-state introduced by nineteenth century colonialism; and that plurinational constitutions may be based on a broader conception of democracy than political liberalism. Building on these discussions, the principal normative contribution of the thesis is the development of a constitutional theory for the accommodation of national pluralism that is based on the norm of asymmetry, as distinct from equality, between multiple nations within the territorial and historical space of the state.
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