Not Matanhy, we have lost a true Comrade

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
21 March 2012 20:53 IST

He was no more.  All hopes lost… everybody was feeling completely lost. Even chief minister Manohar Parrikar. Controlling his own emotions, Dr Oscar Rebello told Mr Parrikar: “you go home and rest for some time.” Mr Parrikar, who was at the city hospital throughout, instantly said: “He was with me, standing like a rock, for the last 12 years. How can I leave him now?”

Tears flowed down everybody’s cheeks. Even Dr Oscar could not control himself…

I remembered an incident, way back in 2000, after Mr Parrikar had taken over as the chief minister. I was waiting at his Altinho bungalow for his interview. He was sitting with Matanhy Saldhana inside, perhaps discussing some issue of the downtrodden Goan society. Matanhy was not an MLA that time. Mr Parrikar came to me and commented: “He is not like what I had heard about him. He is a nice man. Sincere. Committed.” I laughed: “Of course. He is more than that. A true Goan. You politicians have always misunderstood him,” I said. He nodded.

The political class had misunderstood him throughout his career of social activism. All politicians considered him a negative person. Because he opposed any project or any issue that was hampering Goa’s socio-cultural fabric. He fought for the downtrodden, may it be Render, Ramponkar, Farmer, Worker or anybody. But there always lied a strong positivism in him. For healthy Goa, prospering Goa, for a just society. He fought against any kind of injustice; tirelessly, committedly, till the end.

Goans cheered when the recent election demolished the corrupt, arrogant and indifferent business-minded, self-centered Congress. But they were more happy for two persons – Manohar Parrikar and Matanhy Saldanha. He was the second hope of Goans’ aspirations. In fact they were doubly cheerful when he was allotted Forest and Environment.

His statement on Mhadei sanctuary was like hitting the nail in a right place. “I want to study the issue properly. I want to know whether the sanctuary needs to be denotified for the benefit of the locals or the mining industry.” He had said emphatically that he would not allow any kind of mining in the smallest part of Goa’s forest. That was the hope. We have lost it….

I recall the days of mid-70. The young and fearless Matanhy had waged a struggle against the pollution of Zuari Agro Chemicals that had created havoc in Sancoale and also along the coast of Velsao and Cansaulim. That was the first struggle our country witnessed against industrial pollution. The then MGP government had to bend to the demands and close down the Zuari factory. It opened only after the pollution control measures were implemented.

He was just not a normal teacher who delivered mere lectures at Don Bosco High School, Panaji. He taught – to the students, to the illiterates, to the uneducated and also to those who were pretending to be educated. Whole Goa was a classroom for him. His personal demonstration through his own actions was just not a lesson, but an inspiration for all of us.

He truly believed in studying any issue before he took it up. His research on how Dabolim air port did not belong to the Navy but Goans was mind boggling. His vision-oriented study on realignment of Konkan railway led to a fierce struggle. His opposition to the Special Economic Zones had a substance in saving Goa from disaster. His love for Konkani was not limited to language or the divisive language controversy. It was beyond language, for the Konkani people, for the Konkani society.

He fought relentlessly and fearlessly for the rights of fishermen. A journalist friend of mine Vasudev Pagi told me his experience when he went to Nagapattanam in Tamil Nadu recently. A coastal villager asked him: “Are you from Goa? Do you know Matanhy Saldanha?” He was surprised. After Tsunami devastated their lives, Matanhy was in Tamil Nadu, working day and night to restore their homes. Just a true Goan, a true Indian or a true human being?

He was much different from any other social activist. He was a real political activist. Believed equally in Parliamentary democracy. That’s why his struggling life was not limited to fighting on the streets. He, along with Erasmo Sequeira, Amrut Kansar, Christopher Fonseca, Sergio Carvalho, Anton Francis Xavier, Martin Menino Fernandes, Raju Mangeshkar and many more, formed the All Goa Trade Unions and Traditional Workers’ Co-ordination Committee, went all around Goa collecting money for Goa’s first Konkani daily – Novem Goem, published an English weekly – The Goan Weekly and formed a political party – Gomant Lok Pokx.

The experiment failed. Or the selfish Goans failed them? But he did not give up. Joined another experiment – the United Goans Democratic Party. Did not bow down before any pressures when he was elected the MLA from Cortalim in 2002. He had assured Mr Parrikar he would be there with him, not to allow the corrupt Congress to come to power when the UGDP men defected. He was in Australia. The flight landed at Dabolim. One of his close confident literally ran up the staircase to get him on the side of the Congress. But he flatly refused, even at the cost of losing his membership of the House.

His statement at that time was a proud moment for all of us: “I am not a weathercock to change side with the wind.”

He joined the BJP, not to uphold its communal agenda, but to finish the corrupt Congress. He represented the true spirit of Goa and Goans, who also voted for the BJP, to defeat the corrupt Congress. It was the need of the hour. He was also the hope for the Hindutwa agenda not to raise its head, unlike in the past. He truly believed that yet another ‘experiment’ could help in saving Goa.

But, alas, we could not save him. We have lost him. Forever. I am sure his soul (spirit) will never rest in peace until we stand by his principles and work unitedly to save our Bhangarachem Goem! We salute you Comrade!!!

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of Prudent & Goa365, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities. After retirement from day-to-day journalism in 2020, he is into Re-Search Journalism (पुनर्सोद पत्रकारिता), focusing on analytical articles, Video programs & Books.

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Previous Comments

Well written, but too late. For more than 30 years Matanhy did not get the recognition he deserved. The press did not support the issues raised by him and even those wearing cloaks of righteousness did not back Matanhy who was righteous to the core. Most Goans have woken now to acknowledge Matanhy, the greatest son of Goa. He said: "Freedom is a continuous struggle; and Better to live in hope than to die in fear".

May his soul rest in eternal peace.

- G. Oliveira, Caranzalem, Goa | 31 st March 2012 20:43


In life, we exist asymmetrically until our life sentence on earth is commuted by death. To fulfil the purpose for which one’s existence came to be necessary is to overcome death and join the ranks of immortality.

Not everyone is committedly aware of that purpose, or able to tenaciously endure that altruistic burden.

Dom Martin

- Dom Martin, USA | 26 th March 2012 00:02


Well summarised Sandesh. What more can any one add?

Well said that he was always misunderstood by the "political" class, or rather the selfish & immoral, unethical "political" class. This is the class which made the general and naive goans think that Mathany was not a good person. Atleast he succeeded in making the people know that, he was not what he was made to look like by others.

I do not wish to congratulate you on your article, instead would like to Thank you for it.

- jaret de silva, overseas | 22 nd March 2012 22:24


Well written Sandeshbab. It put forth the good man he was and will be in our hearts.

- Rohan, Ponda | 22 nd March 2012 06:56


This is a cruel blow to Goa. Our homeland is on life support right now. Matanhy-bab was critical to Goa's recovery. If Manohar-bab can put in place the right people and policies soon to arrest Goa's bleeding, that will soften the impact of this setback. The personal loss we all feel will of course persist.

- Rajan Parrikar, Mountain View, California | 22 nd March 2012 03:10


Well said Sandesh bab. He was misunderstood because "varem marta te vatten sup dhorpi nhoi aslo to." Today we have lost him. But let his principles live. Let each one of us take up

- Nelson, Carmona | 21 st March 2012 23:29


Total untimely loss for Goans.

Hope his family finds the strength to deal with this sad demise.

A great write up Mr. Prabhudesai. This is a apt tribute to a personality like Late Mr. Matanhy Saldanha

- Saiyesh Mahambrey, Porvorim | 21 st March 2012 23:04


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