Sir Claude Corea
|President of the United Nations Security Council|
May 1960 – June 1960
|Preceded by||Mario Amadeo|
|Succeeded by||Tsiang Tingfu|
|Ceylonese Representative to the United Nations|
|Preceded by||Senerat Gunewardene|
|Succeeded by||Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera|
|High Commissioner for Ceylon to the United Kingdom|
|Preceded by||Edwin Wijeyeratne|
|Succeeded by||Gunasena de Soyza|
|Ceylonese Ambassador to the United States|
|Preceded by||Office Created|
|Succeeded by||Senerat Gunewardene|
|Ceylonese Representative to the United Kingdom|
|Preceded by||Office Created|
|Succeeded by||Oliver Ernest Goonetilleke|
|Minister of Labour, Industry and Commerce|
|Minister of Home Affairs|
|Born||29 January 1894
|Died||2 September 1962
|Spouse(s)||Lady Karmini Corea|
|Children||Nihal, Harindra and Chandra|
|Parents||Alfred Winzer Corea, Sarah Elizabeth Herat|
|Alma mater||Wesley College, Colombo.|
Sir George Claude Stanley Corea, KBE (29 January 1894 – 2 September 1962) was a Sri Lankan politician and diplomat.
He was born on 29 January 1894 to a well known Ceylonese political family hailing 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”. Lady Corea played an important role in Sir Claude's career as a diplomat. He was educated at Wesley College, Colombo.
Early political career
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.
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. However Don Stephen Senanayake was keener on this position than he; Sir Claude opted for a diplomatic career.
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. 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.
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.
Post-war relations with Japan
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 18 June 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."
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. Ceylon only became a member of the United Nations on 14 December 1955. In August 1956 he participated in the 22-power London conference that discussed the brewing Suez Crisis, before travelling 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. 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. 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?" 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.
President of the UN Security Council
Sir Claude became President of the UN Security Council in May 1960. 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.
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 25 May 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."
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" along with one of Sir George Claude Corea. 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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- "Carmaine Chitty Corea, Wife of Sir G.C.S. Corea". Npg.org.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- "Sir (George) Claude Stanley Corea (1894–1962), Ambassador of Ceylon in the USA". Npg.org.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2013.