Nice guy: Friends and colleagues fondly remember Gnanathurai for all his good qualities.
PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian economist and former civil servant, who was killed in Friday’s suicide attack at a popular restaurant in Kabul, has been described as an “unsung hero” for his dedication to his work and also helping Afghan victims of war.
Gnanathurai Nagarajah, 65, was among 21 people who died after militants opened fire on diners at close range, his employer Adam Smith International said in a statement.
Gnanathurai was working as the London-based body’s Budget Policy and Reform Adviser to help reform the national budget process for Afghanistan.
AFP reported that a militant detonated his suicide vest at the fortified entrance of the Taverna du Liban restaurant after which two others stormed inside and opened fire.
Among the dead were two British citizens, two Canadians, a senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative from Lebanon and the restaurant’s Lebanese owner.
Former Treasury deputy secretary-general Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said Gnanathurai, who worked under him in the Treasury’s economic division in the 1980s, was a committed officer who was involved in preparing Malaysia’s annual budgets and five-year economic plans.
“He is an unsung hero for his dedication and commitment in serving Malaysia as well as helping people in other countries,” he said.
Ramon said Gnanathurai, who was from Kuala Lumpur, obtained his PhD in Economics from Boston University and had also worked at the Economic Planning Unit.
He later worked with the Asian Development Bank and was subsequently posted to Uzbekistan before joining the IMF in Cambodia.
Gnanathurai then went on to work at Adam Smith International – an international economic advisory body – as its adviser in the Afghan capital.
Ramon said he last met Gnanathurai in Kuala Lumpur several months ago.
“I asked whether he ever feared for his safety working in Afghanistan. He replied that Kabul was relatively safe and that he was happy to help the country and work where he was needed the most,” said Ramon.
In the statement, Adam Smith International said Gnanathurai was one of the few among its staff whose trajectory remained consistent as he progressed through a career of helping governments exercise fiscal discipline and build resilient economies.
“It was impossible not to love him, for his generosity which delighted in giving gifts to others and cooking elaborate meals for his friends; for his caring nature, which made him the sort of person who thought the best of everyone and always looked out for the welfare of others; and for his gregariousness, which led him to host parties and surround himself with friends,” it said.
A relative of Gnanathurai, when contacted, said Adam Smith International was helping to arrange for the body to be flown back to Malaysia.
Wisma Putra in a statement said it received confirmation that a Malaysian was killed in the attack through the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, as the British Embassy in Kabul holds consular responsibility for unrepresented Commonwealth nationals in Afghanistan.