Joao Hugo Eduardo de Sequeira (20 April 1915 – 17 October 1989),
Popularly known as Dr. Jack de Sequeira; also known as Jak Siker , was a prominent politician and is popularly known in Goa as the Father of the Opinion Poll. The father of the Opinion Poll laid the foundation for Goa’s Statehood. Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and the Department of Posts released a special cover on Dr Jack de Sequeira on the occasion of Goa Statehood Day (May 30, 2015). Speaking about Dr Sequeira, the Chief Minister said, “Sequeira fought to keep Goa as a separate entity with a unique identity.” Parsekar further went on to say, “He brought in referendum to determine whether Goa should be merged with Maharashtra or not. It is only because of him that Goa got statehood on May 30, 1987.
Dr.Jack de Sequeira was the founder president of the United Goans Party. He played a pivotal role in convincing the government of India to hold an opinion poll to decide the issue of the merger of Goa into the state of Maharashtra.
Dr. Sequeira was born in Burma (nowMyanmar) on 20 April 1915, to Mr. Erasmo de Sequeira and Mrs. Ana Julia de Sa e Sequeira.
After completing schooling in Portuguese medium at the Lyceum, he studied medicine. He graduated in medicine from Escola medico Cirurgica de Goa at the young age of 21; in addition he won a gold medal in microbiology. Sadly, he had to quit his further medical studies, and take over the family business, Agencia e Sequeira as he lost his father.
As a young man, sports came naturally to him and along with his brother Dr. Frank; he played a good game of tennis. At the young age of 23, he married Lilia Goveia A Pinto and had nine children, three boys and six girls.
Our tiny Goa was ruled by the Portuguese for over 450 years and later in December 1961 Goa became free from the Portuguese regime. After a brief spell of Military rule followed by President’s rule for the first time in the history of Goa assembly election were scheduled in the year 1963.Thereafter the fever of the first assembly election spread to every nook and corner of the land of Goa. The foundation of democracy was laid. People of Goa had been wondering what an election is? What is a vote and how to vote? These were the questions doing the round in the minds of people of Goa. While the election campaign was in full swing, there was only one headline on the newspaper as well as on All India Radio that is assembly election. Therefore the question was ‘How people of Goa who lived under the Portuguese rule over many centuries would participate in an election’ since they were getting the opportunity to vote for the first time in their life. Even then people were happy for having had the opportunity to vote and ensure their own betterment by electing a people friendly and good government for Goa.
During the election campaign and even after the first government was installed, the MGP raked up the issue of merging Goa with Maharashtra. Dayanand Bandodkar the first chief Minister also advocated the merger of Goa with Maharashtra, while the first opposition leader Dr Jack de Sequeira asked for the referendum to preserve Goa’s identity, its culture and language fearing this would be lost with the merger.
Sequeira was the leader of a group known as ‘Goyncho Pokx’, which was one of the groups that later came together to form United Goans (UG) Party. He became the president of the UGP, which was an antithesis to MGP that was formed with the core ideology of merging Goa with Maharashtra. Countering this stand of MGP, the United Goans Party was formed by merging Goencho Pokx of Jack Sequeira, the Partido Indiano of Alvsaro Loyola de Furtado, the Goa National union of J M Desouza and United Fronts of Goans and Democratic Party who shared a common goal, that of separate identity for Goa, and which was against the merger of Goa with Maharashtra. Sequeira was the president of the party since its inception in 1963 till its merger with Janata Dal in 1977.
Dr. Jack de Sequeira was the founder president of the United Goans Party.He represented Santa Cruz assembly constituency three times. He lost in the fourth attempt in 1979 and did not contest elections again.
Goa was annexed into India by an Indian Army operation on December 19, 1961. It was integrated into the Indian Union in 1962.
Goa’s first polls were held on December 9, 1963.
The two main parties UGP and MGP were formed with two opposing ideologies. The MGP wanted to merge the state of Goa into the newly formed state of Maharashtra whereas UGP wanted to retain independent statehood for the former Portuguese enclaves.
The United Goans Party(UGP) was formed in 1962-63 following the merger of three local parties. Dr Sequeira was its founding president
Of the 30 seats in the assembly 28 belonged to Goa, and one each to Daman and Diu. MGP formed the government, having secured 16 seats while UGP secured 12.The assembly of Goa, Daman and Diu convened on 9 January 1964. Dayanand Bandodkar of MGP became the first Chief Minister.
The MGP and politicians in Maharashtra were elated at the victory and touted it as a mandate that the majority of Goans were in favour of merger.
At the time of Goa’s accession into India, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had categorically stated that Goa would retain its distinct identity.Following MGPs victory and the raised pitch for merger. Dr. Sequeira visited New Delhi along with his MLAs and impressed Nehru about the need of an opinion poll on this matter . However Nehru died before Parliament could take this decision and Lal Bahadur Shastri succeeded him as Prime Minister. A delegation consisting of MGP MLAs and Maharashtra’s leaders went to New Delhi to convince him that a vote on the merger should be conducted in the Goa Assembly.
Dr. Sequeira, along with others went to Bangalore where an AICC session was being held and met Shastri. They opposed the move to get the merger voted in the Assembly and impressed on Shastri and Kamraj, the need to put this question before the people of Goa themselves.
Dr. Sequeira shrewdly managed to get the backing of the legislators of Mysore state( now Karnataka).He impressed them that if Maharashtra managed to convince the centre to merge Goa into Maharashra, it would only bolster their case for Karwar and Supa.
However Shastri died in 1966 in Tashkent and this decision was now left to the new Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Again Dr. Jack and his legislators met the new Prime Minister and submitted a memorandum that such a monumental decision affecting the future of the State could not be left to legislators alone, but should be put before the people to decide. The referendum could be conducted via a signature campaign or by secret ballot.Since a large number of Goans worked outside Goa,and indeed, outside India itself as expats, UGP demanded that these expats should be allowed to vote by postal ballot. Parliament finally agreed to conduct a referendum by means of secret ballot but ruled out postal ballots.
Now that the referendum would be conducted, Dr. Sequeira feared that Bandodkar may use the state’s administrative and law-enforcement machinery to browbeat the anti-mergerists into submission. The UGP demanded that the MGP government resign so that the referendum could be conducted in a free-and-fair atmosphere. On 3 December 1966, the MGP government resigned.
Dr. Sequeira also traveled extensively exhorting people to vote against the merger. In this cause, he also visited places such as Colaba and Kalyan in Bombay, convincing Goans staying there to support the cause.
The opinion poll was held on 16 January 1967. A total of 3,17,633 votes were polled. The merger was defeated by 34,021 votes.
The making of a legend
Dr Jack Sequeira’s path in life is an extremely interesting and fascinating journey, which all generations of Goan society need to explore and most importantly emulate.
Says his daughter, Dr. Lilia Sequeira e Sukhija, “as a father, he was a strict disciplinarian, but also a wonderful friend and confidant when the need arose.” With a nostalgic smile on her face, Dr Lilia, recollected that even though he was an extremely busy man, he made it a point to spend time with his family. Konkani was spoken most often in the Sequeira household. Therefore it comes as no surprise that he would insist on separate statehood for Goa, with Konkani as its official language.
Himself being very punctual, a man of his word and a gentleman, his daughter, Dr Lilia further explained that it was from her father that she and her siblings learnt values of honesty, integrity and never to look down on anyone. Dr. Jack de Sequeira always maintained that there was no success without failure and it was important to accept what came ones way with a positive attitude.
Though a committed Catholic with special devotion for Goa’s patron Saint Francis Xavier, he was broadminded and accepted three of his sons in law who belonged to other communities.
One of the great regrets that Dr Jack Sequeira had, was that he could not practice medicine, a profession he was qualified in. Therefore, he was extremely pleased when his daughter Julie and Lilia became physicians. Says his family, ‘ he would have been even happier to see that four of his granddaughters have joined the medical profession too.’
People of the older generation would perhaps remember him for his honesty, generosity. During the 2nd world war, when there was a shortage of the most essential commodities, Dr Jack Sequeira ensured that the family firm Agence E Sequeira sold precious kerosene and scarce matchboxes at the fixed price. The thought of profiteering never crossed his mind.
In the elections of 1979, at the fag end of his political career, he lost the election for Santa Cruz, a seat he had won three times earlier. Recollecting this episode, his daughter Lilia, clearly emotional says, ” I distinctly remember this episode, as I was present there. He remained in the counting hall till the results were announced, shook hands with his victorious opponent and walked out, his head held high, saying he accepted defeat as the people had rejected him.”
Dr Jack Sequeira was shaken by this sudden change in the people of his constituency and true to his word never contested elections again.
Jack de Sequeira was a great opposition leader: Willy
Jack de Sequeira, Goa’s first opposition leader, was more than fit for his role, says a former chief minister of Goa, Wilfred de Souza, who was a good friend of Sequeira. The two did not share much space in the Goa legislature as de Souza entered politics much later.
“Dayanand Bandodkar (Goa’s first CM) was no match for him in debates in the legislative assembly. Jack de Sequeira was a very good speaker, studied his subject very well and came out strongly in the assembly. Bandodkar was not highly-qualified and Jack de Sequeira was a medical doctor,” recalls de Souza.
More than the Opinion Poll, de Souza thinks that Sequeira’s greatest contribution to Goa was the fact that he took the initiative to bring together various ramshackle regional parties under the umbrella of United Goans Party (UGP) and became its president. Contrary to expectations, UGP won 12 seats in the first assembly elections of December 1963. “The Congress thought that because they had brought in liberation, Goans would vote for them. But Congress got zero,” says de Souza.
The MGP won 14 seats but Peter Alvares of the socialist party, which had won two seats, aligned with Bandodkar and helped him to form the government.
De Souza remembers Sequeira as an honest politician, but not necessarily an astute one. Sequeira’s family was rich and he ran a large trading business, so he did not need money from politics. But Souza’s assessment of Sequeira as a not-too-clever politician arises from the politics that transpired then. Souza recounts the story like this.
During the first term of Bandodkar’s MGP government, his one minister, K B Naik, broke away with seven MGP MLAs, throwing the MGP into a minority. There was a proposal then that the seven rebels should support UGP’s 12 and form the government. There was only one condition—Naik would be chief minister. Sequeira rebuffed the offer. He insisted that he himself should be CM since he had 12 MLAs when Naik had only seven. Amid the dilly-dallying, Bandodkar broke away five of the UGP’s MLAs and managed to latch on to power.
De Souza says with a smile, “He (Sequeira) was very stubborn. When he had made up his mind, he had made up his mind. He should have allowed Naik to become the CM then. It would have finished Bandodkar and in the next elections Sequeira would have walked into the CM’s chair. Even I tried to convince him, but he was very stubborn.”
De Souza remembers Sequeira’s spirited fight for Konkani and statehood though nothing came of it then. He also remembers that Sequeira worked very hard during the Opinion Poll and agrees that had Goa been merged with Maharashtra, Goa would only be a district under a single collector.
He died on 17 October 1989, aged 74.
Life size statue of Dr Jack Sequeira a fitting tribute
On 16 January 2007 a life sized statue of Dr. Jack was inaugurated at Calangute.
This was a tribute to all his unsung efforts and hard work. Commenting on the installation of her fathers statue at Calangute, an overjoyed, Dr Lilia said she and her family were extremely thrilled that recognition was finally awarded to her father. However, she seemed clueless as to what her father might have felt about it, if he were alive, as he was someone who shied away from the limelight.
Another statue was inaugurated on 20 April 2007 at Dona Paula.The cost of the statue was borne by his family and not by the government. A third statue will be installed in Salcette.
On 16th January 2017 Goa commemorates the 50th anniversary of Goa’s opinion poll day as Goencho Osmitai Dis, also known as Goa’s identity day. Today the unique identity, culture and language of Goa, is under threat.
In the long history of Goa this was the first time that Goans asserted that they were a distinct community and wanted a distinct identity. Today it is only because we didn’t merge with Maharashtra that we could become a full fledge state. Goa was never part of Maharashtra, neither geographically, nor culturally nor historically. Goa was not a Marathi speaking state either. We had our own language. The opinion poll paved the way for us to govern ourselves and for the first time we got the right to do so. Opinion poll has cent percent sealed the identity of Goa and its culture, and if there was no efforts of Dr Jack de Sequeira and his supporters, I think there would have been no Goa.
On 16 January, we have to salute Dr Jack de Sequeira who played a very important role for preserving our identity, language and culture for our generations. If the Opinion poll was not held, Goa would have been another district of Maharashtra where only a collector would have been in control. Today we have a state government to look after Goa.
It is a great irony that those who fought for Goa’s identity during the Opinion poll of 1967, and their descendant got the least benefits from the victory, while those who were out to destroy Goa and their descendant have hogged all the benefits materially and politically. Dr Jack de Sequeira had a vision for Goa who entered into politics with only one aim in his mind –to retain the identity of Goa and Goans. Dr Jack de Sequeira and his supporters had decided to oppose the Maharashtrian forces within Goa, tooth and nail, and he went on to convince the government of India that the election was not the correct process to judge the verdict or settle the issue of merger He said that it should hold a referendum –an opinion poll which he opined was the right way of ascertaining the wishes of the people. Dr Sequeira found able support in Purshottam Kakodkar and other stalwarts and finally the unique and the only such opinion poll in India’s history took place on 16th January 1967.
Dr Sequeira, his supporter and the people of Goa won the Opinion poll by a lead of over 34000 votes. For his assiduous efforts Dr Sequeira has been declared by people as the father of Opinion poll of Goa.
Today we Goans are enjoying our beautiful land and resources only because of all those who worked tireless and because of Dr Jack de Sequeira. He died on October 17, 1989, leaving Goa to enjoy its independent identity. Our present day politicians are today enjoying the fruits of his vision.
Today we have 40 MLAs and so many ministers. Till today nobody has realised that they have got these opportunities to reach these positions only because of Dr Sequeira. I hope they will open their mind and honour this greatest, cleanest and honest leader by installing a life size statue at a prominent place in the city.
A resolution to this effect has also been passed in the Legislative Assembly by our ex-MLAs, like the late Anant Narcinva (Babu) Naik from Margao and the late JB Gonsalves from Panjim on 18th March 1994, to recognized the need to honour Dr Jack de Sequeira, but till today not a single ministers or MLA have taken the necessary steps to implement their own resolution.
On behalf of Goa and Goans we hope that the government of Goa will recognise all his work and acknowledge the contribution of late Dr. Jack de Sequeira by installing a life size statue significantly to keep his memory alive in the best interest of future generations, so that Goans will remember him and understand the significance of celebrating Opinion poll as Goencho Osmitai Dis.