Claude Corea

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Sir George Claude Stanley Corea KBE
SirclaudecoreaUNSecurityCouncil.jpg
Minister of Home Affairs - State Council of Ceylon (1933)
Minister of Labour, Industry and Commerce - State Council (1936–1946)
First Ceylonese Representative to the Court of St.James, UK (1946)
First Ceylonese Ambassador to
the United States (1948)
High Commissioner for Ceylon to the Court of St. James, UK (1954–1958)
Representative of Ceylon to
the United Nations (1958)
President of the United Nations Security Council (1960)
Personal details
Born 29 January 1894
Chilaw, Ceylon
Died 2 September 1962
Germany
Nationality Sri Lanka Sri Lankan
Spouse(s) Lady Karmini Corea
Children Nihal, Harindra and Chandra
Parents Alfred Winzer Corea, Sarah Elizabeth Herat
Alma mater Wesley College, Colombo.
Occupation Politics, Diplomat
Religion Christian

Sir George Claude Stanley Corea (29 January 1894 – 2 September 1962) was a Sri Lankan politician and diplomat.

Family background[edit]

Sir Claude Corea came from a leading Sri Lankan family who hail from the western coast town of Chilaw. They played a pivotal role in the independence movement of Ceylon, setting up the hugely influential Chilaw Association. Mahatma Gandhi recognised the role played by the Corea Family when he visited Chilaw in 1927 on his first and only visit to the island.

He was born on 29 January 1894 to a well known Ceylonese political family hailin g from the Western seaboard town of Chilaw. His father was Alfred Winzer Corea who was an officer in government police and his mother was Sarah Elizabeth Herat. In the late 19th Century the Corea brothers, wealthy landed proprietors, set up the Chilaw Association, as a political action group.

Sir Claude married Lilie Karmini Chitty (born 1903), daughter of James Morel Chitty, Crown Counsellor, also from Chilaw and a son of Christian S. Chitty and his French Huguenot wife, Auguste Matilde "Mitzi" Morel. Lady Corea sported a diamond nose stud and is reported famously to have responded to a journalist’s query as to why she wore a diamond on her nose thus: “I prefer diamonds to sapphires”. The journalist had been visiting the United Nations at the time.

The Clementine Paddleford papers in the Kansas State University Archives and Manuscripts have an intriguing entry: “Corea, Lady Karmini, wife to Sir Claude Corea, Ceylon's, United Nations Ambassador – ‘A Fashion Note at U.N.,’ n.d.” under “People, 1932–1967”.[1] Lady Corea played an important role in Sir Claude’s career as a diplomat. He was educated at Wesley College, Colombo.

Early political career[edit]

Sir Claude enjoyed an illustrious political career in wartime Ceylon, entering politics and the State Council in 1931. He acted as Minister of Home Affairs in 1933, becoming Minister of Labour, Industry and Commerce in 1936, coincidentally with his marriage to Lilie Karmani Chitty. He continued as Minister of Labour, Industry and Commerce until 1946. He was elected to the presidency of the Ceylon National Congress in 1932, 1939 and 1941.[2]

Sir Claude Corea was a prominent member of the State Council of Ceylon. He was appointed Minister of Home Affairs in 1933 and Minister of Labour, Industry and Commerce in 1936. The State Council met in what is now known as the Old Parliament Building in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

On the last occasion, during the Second World War, Sir Claude was adamant that the CNC should not lobbying for “mere constitutional reforms”, but should seek transfer of sovereignty to the people of Ceylon. After the war Sir Claude served as Chairman of the Board of Ministers Sub Committee charged with resolving post-war problems. He was viewed as a potential first prime minister of Ceylon.[3] However Don Stephen Senanayake was keener on this position than he; Sir Claude opted for a diplomatic career.

Diplomatic career[edit]

Sir Claude took up the post of Ceylonese Representative in the United Kingdom in 1946, two years prior to independence. It is as a diplomat par excellence that he is remembered. His contribution as a diplomat has given him legendary status among the cognoscenti. Sir Claude was soon commissioned by Don Stephen Senanayake, the first Prime Minister, to undertake diplomatic missions in the United States. He was appointed as the first Ceylonese Ambassador to the United States in 1948.[4] Records in the Truman Library reveal that Sir Claude visited the President on 1 March 1949 and again on 21 July 1952, the dates roughly marking his period as Ambassador of Ceylon in the United States.[5]

During this period he attended the 5th session of FAO in Washington DC from 21 November to 6 December 1949. Sir Claude was appointed as High Commissioner of Ceylon in United Kingdom in 1954. He was given concurrent accreditation to France and the Netherlands in January 1956. He served as High Commissioner at the Court of St. James until 1958.[6]

Post-war relations with Japan[edit]

Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida and members of the Japanese delegation, sign the Peace Treaty of San Francisco in 1951. Sir Claude Corea, together with J. R. Jayewardene and R. G. Senanayake, signed the treaty on behalf of Ceylon.

On 8 September 1951, the Treaty of Peace with Japan was signed in San Francisco. Junius Richard Jayewardene (later President Jayewardene), Sir Claude Corea and R. G. Senanayake signed on behalf of Ceylon.

J. R. Jayewardene and Sir Claude, kinsmen and colleagues, worked closely with Dean Acheson and John Foster Dulles, on the American side, to stem an undercurrent at the meeting of Asian resentment against Japanese wartime aggression.

President Reagan made reference to this at the welcoming ceremony for President J. R. Jayewardene on the White House Lawn on June 18, 1984. He said “understanding and appreciating your personal commitment to democratic ideals, Mr. President, it is a pleasure for us to have you as our guest. You underscored this heartfelt commitment during your first visit here in September 1951, during a gathering of the representatives of nations who had fought in the Pacific war. Some at that San Francisco conference insisted that Japan should not be given its full freedom. They argued that Japan should remain shackled as a punishment for its role in World War II. As the representative of Sri Lanka, you spoke out for the principle of freedom for all people, including the Japanese. You quoted Buddha, the great teacher, and said that "hatred ceases not by hatred, but by love." [7]

Multilateral diplomacy[edit]

He was drawn increasingly into multilateral diplomacy in this period, being appointed as Chairman of the UN Interim Committee on International Commodity Arrangements of GATT at its 10th session, in 1955 - having been associated with GATT from its inception.[2][8] Ceylon only became a member of the United Nations on December 14, 1955. In August 1956 he participated in the 22-power London conference that discussed the brewing Suez Crisis, before traveling to China.

On 8 September 1956 he arrived in Beijing as Special Ambassador to China, at the head of a Ceylon Government Delegation that was to have preliminary discussions with the Government of the People's Republic of China regarding the establishment of diplomatic relations, trade expansion, economic co-operation and cultural exchanges. The delegation included Sir Susantha de Fonseka, K.B.E., Mr. T.B.Subasinghe, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence and External Affairs and Mr. R. Coomaraswamy, Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Finance.[9][10] Mr Coomaraswamy subsequently became Deputy Administrator of UNDP and the other two members became cabinet ministers.

The Suez Crisis boiled over after this Chinese interlude, in the period 5 November to 22 December 1956.

Sir Claude chaired the 12th session of GATT in October 1957 in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

He was next appointed as Representative to the United Nations in June 1958 and was in office in September of that year when Prime Minister Solomon W. R. D. Bandaranaike was assassinated in Ceylon.[11] Among those who called to offer condolences were Mr. Vazili Kuzanesov, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister and Mr. V. K. Krishna Menon, India's Defence Minister. Bandaranaike’s widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became Prime Minister in July 1960.

In 1960 Sir Claude Corea reflected on the irony behind Secretary of State Christian Archibald Herter's remark that it was "wholly possible" for Red China to be invited to disarmament discussions, asking wryly whether "if they are not considered good enough to take their place in the U.N., would they be good enough to sit around the disarmament table?"[12] Sir Claude seems to have caught the attention of the Republican National Committee: Documents pertaining to him are to be found in Box 628 of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library under the rubric “Corea, Claude (Sir) – Ceylon – Chairman U. N. 1st Political Committee.[13]

President of the UN Security Council[edit]

Sir Claude Corea created history by becoming the first ever President of the United Nations Security Council from Ceylon in 1960.

Sir Claude became President of the UN Security Council in May 1960.[14] On the first day of his presidency Francis Gary Power’s Lockheed U-2 plane was forced down onto Soviet territory and he was captured.

John F. Kennedy who was a Senator in 1960 visited Sir Claude Corea in his apartment in New York City, during the U.S. presidential raelectionce. Senator Kennedy consulted Sir Claude Corea, who was President of the United Nations Security Council at the time.

The presidential race was under way at this time and the Democratic contender, Senator John F. Kennedy, visited Sir Claude in his apartment, for consultation. On May 25, 1960, closing a politically stormy month, Sir Claude told the Security Council: "We hold that, at the present time, it is a rule of international law that the air space over the territory of any country belongs to that country and cannot be violated without a breach of international law...." The International Civil Aviation Organization negotiated an international agreement which was signed in Chicago in 1944. The signatories, who were sovereign states, big and small, accepted in that agreement the principle of the sovereign right of each state to the air space over its territory. Among the big states which subscribed to this principle is the United States…” He pointed out that “...secretly, there have been violations of this principle for the purpose of espionage” and that espionage has “… existed for centuries and will continue as long as human frailties continue, and will last as long as states suspect each other, fear each other and seek to dominate each other. But espionage is carried out in darkness, shunning publicity as if it were ashamed of its ugliness. We suppose it is considered necessary in the so-called civilized society of today, although the act itself is demoralizing and degrading."

Death[edit]

The John F. Kennedy Library records that “Sir Claude Corea, former Ceylonese diplomat, died” on 2 September 1962 in Germany. Lady Corea survived Sir Claude by over 35 years, living a simple life in Colombo, wearing only simple white cotton saris after she had been widowed. There is a photographic portrait of Lady Corea (by Elliot & Fry 1954) in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. under the name 'Carmaine Chitty Corea, wife of Sir G. C. S. Corea"[15] along with one of Sir George Claude Corea.[16] Sir Claude and Lady Corea had three children: Nihal, Harindra and Chandra. The late Hon. Harindra Corea was a Minister of Telecommunications in the Government of President Ranasinghe Premadasa. He was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister by President Chandrika Kumaratunga in 2000.

There are two photographic portraits in the National Portrait Gallery (United States) in Washington, D.C. of 'Sir (George) Claude Stanley Corea (1894-1962), Ambassador of Ceylon in the USA' and 'Carmaine Chitty Corea, wife of Sir G. C. S. Corea' by Elliot & Fry 1954.)

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