Former speaker Rajendra Arlekar is appointed the governor of Himachal Pradesh. A proud moment for Goa and Goans. However, the day he was appointed, Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant tweets to congratulate Arlekar for being the first Goan to be appointed on the post of governor. Other ministers and ruling MLAs and their supporters quickly followed their leader in hailing the ‘first’ governor. This stirred a hornet’s nest. Congress was quick to hit back at CM and pointed out that Arlekar was not the first Goan to be appointed as governor.
Padmavibhushan Anthony Lancelot Dias was the first Goan to be appointed as Lt Governor of Tripura in 1969. General Sunith Francis Rodrigues was second who was appointed as governor of Punjab in 2004.
In this debate we Goans have forgotten that neither Anthony Lancelot Dias nor Rajendra Arlekar is the first Goan to be appointed as governor. That honour lies with Dr Bernardo Peres Da Silva also known as BPS. He was the first Goan to be appointed as governor, albeit during Portuguese regime. Nonetheless it remains a fact that he was the first Goan to become governor.
On May 7, 1834 he was appointed as the Prefeito (Prefect) which is equivalent to governor, but we Goans have forgotten this great man. Hailing from Neura village in Tiswadi taluka Dr Bernardo Peres Da Silva was born on October 15, 1775. Orphaned at a young age he was raised by his uncle who was priest in Rachol Seminary. He was a bright student and always wanted to serve people. He graduated from Escola Medico Cirugica de Goa and served in the hospital as dotor and later as Professor. During this time the Viceroy of Goa count of Rio Pardo wanted to streamline the treatment available to patients. BPS opposed this move of viceroy. This move made him popular with the people. In retaliation the he was dismissed from the hospital in 1820. Thus began his political career.
He contested the Municipality elections and got elected. There he found out that funds were misused by the elite depriving the services to the common man. He also exposed the corruption done by the Viceroy Count of Rio Pardo resulting in an uprising and his overthrowal
In 1822 for the first time three Goans were elected to Portuguese parliament as Deputardo. He was one of three, the other two being Constancio Roque Da Costa, Antonio Lima De Leitao. Unfortunately they could not take their seats in the parliament because they were stopped on their way in Mozambique. By the time they reached Lisbon the parliament had been dissolved. BPS eventually was appointed as Geral de Agricultura da India (General of Agriculture of Portuguese India). During his tenure he introduced reforms in agriculture sector in Goa benefitting the local farmers. In 1827 he was again elected as Deputardo in the Portuguese parliament, but again couldn’t take his place. On May 7, 1834 his crowning glory came as he was appointed as Prefeito. He took charge on January 14, 1835 and immediately brought in spate of reforms benefitting the common man. He brought reforms in the judicial system by reorganising it. He did away with the tax the Comunidade had to pay to the Portuguese. He introduced the new city council that is the municipality. The reforms introduced by BPS for betterment of common people irked the elite class. This coupled with doing away corrupt practices of the Portuguese officers turned many people against him. Finally on February 1 he was overthrown by a coup from the Portuguese army. His reign lasted mere 17 days but in those he passed many reforms that benefitted the public. He was exiled to Bombay. There were protests against this in Goa as the Goans loved BPS. They recognised his efforts for betterment of Goans. Even from Bombay he tried to free Goa by organising expeditionary force but was unable to do so. BPS returned to Goa and on November 9, 1839 he was elected to Portuguese parliament for the third time. This time he took his place in the parliament in Lisbon. Even there he fought for the rights of Goans especially the downtrodden. He demanded that the Portuguese demilitarise Goa. He passed away on November 18, 1844 in Lisbon.
It is sad that we Goans have for forgotten a man who fought for rights and betterment of Goans in foreign regime. BPS got elected and selflessly served Goans. Only a bust of BPS dedicated by Escola Medico Cirugica De Goa remains at Neura. Also the Bernardo Peres Da Silva Sports Club or famously known as BPS sports club at Margao are the only two remaining things in memory of BPS. The man who holds distinction being the first Goan to be governor and only Goan to hold the prestigious post during 450 years of Portuguese rule. Neither the local Panchayat, local MLA or the Goa government have taken any step to celebrate the birth anniversary or commemorate the death anniversary of BPS. A true son of Goa, freedom fighter and crusader of masses.