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Keith Vaz & Family's Visit to Goa - 2004.

1. 23 Apr. 2004. The Times of India . Keith Vaz in love……..with Goa.
2. 18 Ap. 2004 Goan Observer.
The Vaz Family in Goa
3. 17 Apr. 2004 Navhind Times.
  Keith to set up scholarship for Goan teacher  
Herald.The Goan in the House of Commons

Friday, April 23, 2004
Keith Vaz in love……..with Goa
Text & Photos By Ashwin Kumar

Sometimes…… just sometimes one comes across a prominent political figure who leaves an impression. My meeting with Keith Vaz along with his wife Maria was one of those times. Actually, it wasn’t so much Keith Vaz the politician or personality who impressed but rather ‘Keith Vaz, the man ….the Goan at heart’.

Hailing from Bastora but born in Yemen, Keith lived there till the age of 9, before moving to England. Though he may not speak Konkani his love for Goa and his Goan roots cannot be hidden. This is his umpteenth visit to Goa and he just can’t seem to get enough of this land. He and Maria even had their honeymoon in our ‘Beautiful Goa’.
Keith Vaz the person comes across as someone with charisma, a good sense of humour underlined by simplicity. His wife however, would describe him as a failed comedian (laughs as she says that) but also a very good family man. I’m sure there are many who know him, who would beg to differ with the failed comedian part, though.

Being a family man is something, he cannot give enough importance to. Even in his term in office, in the government of Tony Blair, his ‘silver lining’ on stepping down was that he would be able to spend more time with his family. Though plagued by various accusations during his term and ill-health towards the end of it, which eventually led him to step down, it remains a fact that seeing his children twice or thrice in 2 years wasn’t his idea of quality family time.

Spending time with his family is what he enjoys the most. An ideal weekend getaway would be, surprise surprise….. Goa! “Goa is our favourite destination, the beaches, the culture…..we love it all”, he says. “So accustomed were our kids, Luke and Anjali,” aged 9 and 7 respectively, “to the beaches in Goa that sometimes they would mistake beaches in other countries for Goa, though now they know better.”

Goan food is another of Keith’s favourite things. If Sorpotel is his favourite dish then for his wife Maria, it’s the Goan Fish Curry Rice. Bebinca is also one of the Goan delicacies they can’t get enough of. It’s even been decided that the first pet they get after going back home, will be named Bebinc. Keiths love for the Goan culture, heritage, people and all things Goan is admirable. He firmly believes that Goa with all its diversity, is truly a role model for the world.

Sunday, April 18, 2004
By Tara Narayan
[I was] catching up with British MP of Goan origins Keith Vaz and wife Maria, children Anjali and Luke holidaying in Goa . I'd missed the earlier talk wherein he'd predicted that India is headed to become the “powerhouse of the 21 st century” and presumably modern-day Goa has a role to play. He was busy giving an interview to Sandesh Prabhu of the Konkani daily Sunaprant (which has recently revamped itself) who later confided to me that amongst the questions he'd asked Mr. Vaz was one to do with the Gujarat happenings and Mr. Vaz feigned ignorance (naturally, 40 percent of his voters are Gujarati in his British constituency of Leicester in the U.K.)!

Disappointingly Mr. Vaz is one very politically correct British-Goan (more British) politician with a bit of his heart in Goa, although neither wife nor he are Goa-born, he's Fiji-born and she's Kenya-born and both are now long time citizens of the U.K.). Maria said she doesn't cook but both Keith and she get nostalgic over Goan food which their parents used to cook and while in Goa she's been shopping for masala, especially her favourite recheado masala (a wet masala redolent of Kashmiri red chillies, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, onion, ginger, garlic, tamarind, etc., it is now available in sachets). Oh yes, she would like a home for holidays in Goa and is giving it some serious thought. Maria Vaz is an advocate in London specializing in immigrant cases and from all accounts is a lot more eloquent than her husband when she wants to be. Both were being hosted to the Nostalgia evening by one of my favourite people from South Goa , namely Datta Naik of Margao, a gentleman with vintage taste, a Renaissance man…a vanishing breed of men!

Saturday, April 17, 2004
Keith to set up scholarship for Goan teacher
By Joaquim Fernandes

Panaji , April 16: Mr Keith Vaz, the first ever Minister of Asian origin in Britain’s House of Commons, as also the longest serving person of Goan origin in the British Parliament, will set up a scholarship for a Goan teacher to teach in a British school for a period of one year. “I am sure the scholarship will help that person to develop his or her skills and hope it will attract people of good calibre,” Mr Vaz said.

The scholarship is in memory of his mother, Merlyn Verona Vaz, whose family hailed from Calangute and who expired in the United Kingdom in October 2003. Merlyn Vaz was also the first Goan to be elected councillor of Leicester.

Mr Vaz, now holidaying with his family at the Leela Palace in Cavellosim, told The Navhind Times, that the scholarship will be for a Goan primary teacher to teach in the UK for one year, all expenses paid. “They can teach in the UK, particularly in my constituency of Leicester where my mother was a councillor. If it works out, then we will extend it to other professions. One of the reasons I came here is to take advice from people on how best to deal with this,” Mr Vaz said.

He said a selection committee will be appointed locally here in Goa to which applications from the candidates may be sent. “We will get the rules and regulations in place and then invite applications from Goan teachers,” Mr Vaz said.

Hoping to boost the youth exchange between the UK and India, Mr Vaz regretted that the British government’s scheme called the Commonwealth Working Holiday Scheme and started since August 2003, for young people from the Commonwealth between the ages of 20 and 30 had attracted poor response from Indian youth. “Anyone in India between those ages can qualify. We received only 46 applications in Mumbai out of a country of 990 million people. So people don’t know about this scheme. It allows a young person to go to the UK for 2 years to get a job and finance himself. “That is tremendous exposure and would allow proper exchange between our two countries,” Mr Vaz said, adding that presently only Australians and New Zealanders were availing of the scheme.

One of the conditions is interested persons have to show they have income in India to support them. They also need to demonstrate they will come back after the 2 years is over. When asked how much money that meant, Mr Vaz said its a matter of judgement. “Clearly if you look out for a job in the UK, you will be able to finance yourself. This is one way where people from India can come and work in the UK for 2 years. But that period will give them enormous amounts of experience and exposure,” he said.

Mr Vaz also favoured a visa application centre in Goa for those wishing to travel to Britain. “During my 3 years as foreign office minister, we set up visa application centres for Britain at various places in India like Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Pune. They have been remarkably successful. I did not manage to get a centre opened in Goa though I wanted to. I think the British Consulate wanted to see more demand. Now a lot of Goan people have to go to Mumbai to make their applications or do it by post,” he said.

Stressing the need for Goa to have such a centre, he said there are still issues here of nationalities that are unresolved. “People claim European Union citizenship by descent, their Portuguese connection. These are complicated issues that need to be sorted out. The visa centre would provide a useful service, because it is self-financing. It would not cost the British government anything to put up,” he said.

He said Goa governments in the past had been receptive to the idea. “It’s a long campaign and I think it would be good having seen the success of these centres elsewhere. We want to see an exchange between England and India,” he said.

He also spoke of the need to boost tourism here by introducing more direct commercial flights from the UK to Goa. “I shall be pursuing Air India to introduce direct flights from London to Goa. Lots of people go through Mumbai and then come here. That is an extra day. Direct flights would also give a boost to the (Goan) economy,” he said.

Mr Vaz admired the “remarkable development in Goa” and said he loved to come here because “this is where our origins are”. His wife, Ms Maria, who has just been elected the President of the Law Society of London and his two children, Luke and Anjali, are with him. He is scheduled to leave for the UK on April 18.

The Goan in the House of Commons
By Gary Azavedo

Born in Aden in 1956,
Britishi Labour Party
MP Keith Vaz later migrated to London at the young age of nine. His petite wife Maria Vaz nee Fernandes — hailing from Velim, South Goa — was born in Kisumu, Kenya, before she migrated to England at the age of 14. Maria now holds the prestigious post of president Middlesex Law Society, England. (And drawing comparison to that of Hillary Clinton, Keith jokes that he may just have to switch roles and back his spouse after the completion of his term).

Attracted to politics while studying at the Cambridge University in the seventies, he claims that he has been involved in political activities for 17 years. First elected as an MP of Leicester constituency in 1987, he was selected by Prime Minister Tony Blair as a Minister for Europe (Foreign Office) in 1999 for a two-year term. Keith now serves as a member on the legal affairs and constitutional matters committee in the House of Commons. Keith informs that he represents his 73,000 constituents irrespective of their race, creed or culture, out of which 60 per cent comprise British traditionalists and the rest 40 per cent are British Asians. “But now there is a good mix with the new constituency — Leicester (East) becoming the second most Asian seat in the House of Commons. This was not the case when I was elected earlier, when most Asians came from East Africa,” Keith discloses.

While Keith’s favourite pastime is watching soap operas in London, Maria confesses that she enjoys every free hour she spends with her children. In Goa, they enjoy walking on the beach. Having visited Goa for half a dozen times, the Vaz family (including nine year old Luke and seven year old Anjali) just adore the beaches. “With the kids terming every beach, they visit as “Goa.” Even when we visited Egypt, they thought they were in Goa,” explained a very doting mother.

The next thing about Goa, that they love is the Goan delicacy Bebinca, and having purchased 100 packets of Costa’s Bebinca, they have already decided to name their pet dog, cat or fish “bebinca.” While Keith’s favorite Goan dish is Sorpotel, Maria fancies the Fish Curry Rice with Pomfret. Their only dislikes being the late hours that Goans have their evening meals.

With regards the family following the Goan happenings back home, Maria and Keith comment that the world wide web has made Goa, their next door neighbour, besides they also regularly subscribe to the Goan monthly Goa Today. As to Konkani, they regret that while they cannot speak the language — Maria claims to understand it and loves tiatrs of Prince Jacob — they both love Goan mandos and say a trust has been set up to preserve this beautiful language.



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