Dr Gamani Corea (1925-2013): Economist who valued the role of science and technology

Gamani Corea, Secretary General of UNCTAD (1974-1984)
Gamani Corea, Secretary General of UNCTAD (1974-1984)

“I have a rather large nose that dominates my photos,” said Gamani Corea as I asked him to pose for a photo in his spacious garden at Horton Place, in the heart of residential Colombo.

“Then how come your nose isn’t as famous as JR’s?” I asked as I snapped a few photos. That reference was to our first Executive President J R Jayewardene, whose prominent nose was the delight of cartoonists for decades.

Economist, diplomat and international civil servant Dr Gamani Corea (1925-2013), one of the most accomplished Sri Lankans of the 20th century, had just given me an interview.

It was sometime in late 1990. Dr Corea was dividing his time between Colombo and Geneva. I was a young science reporter working for Asia Technology magazine published from Hong Kong

A few weeks earlier, I’d suggested to my editors a story about Dr Corea’s proposal to revamp the Colombo Plan — an inter-governmental organisation to strengthen economic and social development of countries in the Asia Pacific region — with a new focus on science and technology.

He didn’t know me before, but turned out to be both approachable and amiable. He matched my eagerness with energetic and optimistic answers. We chatted for the better part of an hour.

Dr. Corea, who served as Secretary-General of UNCTAD from 1974 to 1984, died on 3 November 2013 aged 87. As UNCTAD website noted, he was known for his vision of a rebalanced international economic order that would provide fairer treatment to developing countries.

I wrote up that interview for Asia Technology November 1990 issue. Here’s a scan, illustrated by my photo with his not-so-famous nose:

Dr Gamani Corea interviewed by Nalaka Gunawardene - Asia Technology, Nov 1990
Dr Gamani Corea interviewed by Nalaka Gunawardene – Asia Technology, Nov 1990