Wednesday 24 Apr 2024

Helping African Goans resettle in UK influenced my political career: Rabi

Nine-time councillor had rare opportunity to serve as mayor twice

LUI GODINHO | MAY 19, 2023, 11:56 PM IST
Helping African Goans resettle in UK influenced my political career: Rabi


Getting elected as a councillor has now become a regular feature for former mayor of Goan origin and sitting councillor Rabi Martins from the Liberal Democrat Party after he was elected nine times to the Watford Council in Hertfordshire-UK.

Rabi, who will be sworn in on May 23, also has the rare distinction of having served as mayor on two separate occasions.

Having lived in Goa, Pune, Tanzania, Dublin and Watford, Rabi has imbibed different values which has shaped and influenced his politics and social work.


Hailing from Varca, Rabi is the son of Dr Minguelinho Martins and Lilia Viegas. His primary education was in Varca and Pune, while he completed his secondary education in Dar es Salaam and Dodoma (Tanzania).

He went on to pursue his graduation in BSc at Dublin and also completed his MBA.

Besides politics, Rabi has had interests in various fields. In sports, he captained the school and college hockey teams, while he has also pursued photography, writing, travel, human rights and racial justice.

“I have also had an interest in community work. My first experience was when my school gave shelter to refugees from the Belgian Congo and I was part of the support team,” recalled Rabi.


Rabi said his interest in politics was stirred by Julius Nyerere who led the independence movement in what is now Tanzania. His other political influencers were John F Kennedy and Nelson Mandela.

“My interest in racial justice came to the fore when I first came to the UK in 1965 to be confronted by notices for accommodation in shop windows saying ‘No Blacks - No Irish - No Dogs’ and advertisements for jobs carrying the message ‘Blacks Need Not Apply’.”

“I joined various groups to campaign for racial justice and our work led to the introduction of the Race Relations Act 1976. We also set up the Goan Association Standing Committee on Race and Immigration, which I had the privilege to chair.”

“At this time, I was invited to serve on the executive committee of the UK Immigrants Service.”

Following the eviction of Asians from Uganda by Idi Amin, Rabi was invited to join the Uganda Asians Resettlement Board.

"The evacuees included a large number of Goans and I was pleased to be able to assist some of them make a new home in the UK,” said Rabi.

It was this sort of activity that brought Rabi into contact with the political system.

“In 1992, I was invited to stand for election as a councillor. I did but lost the election. I stood a second time in 1993 and came close. I won the seat on my third attempt in 1994, but lost the seat in 1998. I regained the seat in 1999 and have held it ever since,” said Rabi.

In that period, Rabi had the rare privilege of serving as Chairman of the Council (Civic Mayor) on two separate occasions, in 2006-7 and 2017-18.

“I am currently vice-chair of the Planning Committee and the Council Mental Health Champion. I also stood as a Parliamentary Candidate in four general elections, but failed to get elected.”

“Beyond Council work, I played an active part within the national Liberal Democrat Party and held various roles including Advisor to the Party Chief Executive, Member of Federal International Relations Committee, Federal Policy Committee and Regional Diversity Officer,” added Rabi.


Outside of politics, Rabi is currently Vice President of Watford Rotary Club, having previously served as President and District Assistant Governor. He is currently preparing for the Rotary Club Centenary Celebrations in February 2024.

“In 2020, I visited Amritsar with fellow UK Rotarians to support the India Polio Immunisation programme. I am also very involved with the scouts movement and serve as current District Vice President of Watford North Scouts District,” said Rabi.

“At the moment, I partner with celebrated former England footballer and Watford player Luther Blissett OBE to support Ukranian refugees in Watford.”

“I am a very ‘wherever I lay my Head is my Home’ kind of person. I guess that comes from the fact that I have led a very nomadic kind of life: born in Goa, and educated in India and Africa. So even though I faced racial discrimination in many quarters, it did not defeat me.”

Rabi said his approach to tackling any challenge has always been the same, to tackle it head-on.

“Some battles will be harder than others and I go into these battles knowing I will win some and I will lose some. So, I accept whatever the outcome is and move on.”

“Experience has taught me that the most important thing in one’s personal life is to have a goal and then to strive to achieve it. Only when you reach it, set a new and more challenging goal. Achieve that one and move ahead with an even more challenging goal,” summed up Rabi.

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