Bernardo's Maiden Voyage!
By Yogesh A. Nagvenkar
Goa is enchanting. A land endowed with distinct natural beauty, its carefree culture, unique hospitality, sporty spirit and the flavour - inviting global tourists and adventurers.
Goans have been the founders of what we as a whole represent to what we are today. A Goan person has been present in almost all parts of the world either for career or business goal spreading the essence of Goenkarponn in each and every part of the world in their own way. These Goans as the true ambassadors of Goenkarponn.
We have a few Goans in the past who have created history out of their dare and a rock solid attitude. One of this great Goan was Bernardo Peres Da Silva. The man who broke barriers and was the only Goan to become the Prefect (Governor) of Goa during Portuguese era in 1835.
Born in Neura on 15 Oct 1775, and orphaned of both parents when very young, Bernardo was looked after by his uncle, Rev Caetano Peres. He completed his early studies at the Seminary of Rachol and then joined the Escola Medico-Cirurgica in Panjim from which he graduated in medicine. In those days politics was a reserved subject for the wealthier class. They believed that only they who had a control over the Muncipal funds. He was elected Peoples Attorney of the people to the Goa Muncipal Council, which marked the beginning of an eventful career. This was a turning point for Bernardo to enter the politico arena.
Bernardo after clearing a competitive examination was appointed Assistant Professor of Medical School. Here he daringly opposed the ill conceived directives issued by the Viceroy, the Count of Rio Pardo who was trying to streamline the clinical treatment available to patients. This attitude of Peres Da Silva won him applauses from the people but this also created a rift with the Viceroy.
When the news reached Goa that the Constitution of 1820 was promulgated in Portugal, the Viceroy without waiting to ascertain the wishes of the people preferred to depend on instructions from the Council of Government functioning from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It was period of tensions in Portuguese political arena which gave rise in Goa to a popular insurrection under the direction of Peres Da Silva, who did not however, accept any position in the Provisional Government of Goa set up after the imprisonment of the Viceroy.
On 4th January 1822, Peres Da Silva was elected as deputy to the Parliament in Lisbon together with Lima Leitao and Constancio Roque Da Costa, and the three ventured to the risky journey to Portugal. In Mozambique they were denied possession of the funds advanced by the Goa Government and at Rio De Janeiro they were detained because Brazil insisted that all the other Portuguese colonies as well should equally declare their Independence from Portugal.
At last they reached Lisbon after a strainful voyage of tensions but by that time the parliament in Lisbon was dissolved and absolute monarchy restored once again. The new Government appointed Peres Da Silva “Indentende Geral de Agricultura da India” but recommended careful vigilance at the same time on his pronounced liberal views, which prevented giving immediate effect to the appointment.
Even after a tuff scenarios of Financial circumstances due to the period of loss of employment, Peres Da Silva maintained opposition to the Government and, in 1827, after the news that a liberal government had assumed power, Peres Da Silva was again elected the Goan deputy to Parliament in Lisbon against his rival, the Portuguese Governor of Goa, who too had presented his candidature. He proceeded to Lisbon but on arrival there he found the parliament dissolved and King D. Miguel on the throne. He wanted Plymouth in England where he stayed for some time but finally pitched his tent in Rio de Janeiro where he obtained employment as a teacher.
While he was in Plymouth he came to know by surprise that another person had been chosen in his place to represent Goa in the Parliament. He published a strong protest against this illegality and made it widely known throughout Europe, but when the constitutional Government was finally re-established in Lisbon he hastened there and on 8th April 1834 addressed a memorandum to King D. Pedro IV in which he pleaded for certain freedoms for the people of Portuguese India.
On 7th May 1834, Bernardo Peres Da Silva was appointed “Prefeito” (equivalent of Governor) and on his arrival in Goa, though he found his family much depressed in the absence of any news about him and of financial support, he took charge as “Prefeito” on 14 January 1835. He set himself to enforce liberal laws and to suppress the influence of the oligarchy. Inevitably, there were many protests against his government from the privileged classes and on 1st Nov 1835, Peres Da Silva was deposed after a military revolt and imprisoned on the ship ‘Infante Regente’ at the time when Kind D. Manuel assumed the reigns of government in Portugal.
Bernardo Peres Da Silva was exiled to Bombay where he tried to obtain British Military assistance to fight the Portuguese in Goa, but the British refused and Peres Da Silva endeavoured in vain to set up his Government in Daman. The Baron of Sabrosa arrived as the Governor of the Portuguese state of India and Peres Da Silva recognized the new authority and went to Goa where he was once again elected a deputy on 9th Nov 1839, and finally took his seat in the Parliament for the first time. As the deputy, he strongly defended the interests of India as well as the other Portuguese colonies.
Being less tactful, Peres Da Silva failed to reconcile his principles with the realities of the situation and was not clever enough though he did render at the same time a useful service. In Rio de Janeiro, he published a monograph entitled “Dialogue between a Doctor of Philosophy and a Portuguese in India over the Political Constitution of Portugal” which he dedicated to the youth of India inspired by love of liberty. He also published his own speech delivered in Parliament in Lisbon in 1840 in defence of his actions as Governor and asking for investigation into the actions of his adversaries.
Bernardo Peres da Silva in his life had truly reached to the level where we shouldn’t hesitate to call him “The Goan Legend”. Instead of all the political risks and barriers he daringly made it a mark to reach his Political destiny for the interests of the local Goans. Peres Da Silva died a pauper who had to dispose even his furniture in his house to bare the medical treatment.
Through this tribute we at “History Lovers Group” Goans are carrying on the works of Bernardo Peres Da Silva so that his Legacy remains alive.