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'The Guyanese Mafia' in the UK - the next generation
Samantha Tross

Their role models are there in the first generation 'Guyanese Mafia' - those of Guyanese extraction who have made it big in Britain: from the leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Amos, to the Chair of the CRE, Trevor Phillips to Super headmaster, Sir Dexter Hutt, to Air Commodore David Case of the RAF and Dr Raj Persaud, Britain's best known psychiatrist, they have all distinguished themselves in the UK.

But what of 'The Mafia in Reserve' - those of the next generation who have made it or are making it? You can find them everywhere - in the dealing rooms of the City of London, in the operating theatres of leading hospitals, in lawyers' offices, just everywhere. You just follow the money and you'll find the young Guyanese. But just who are they and how much of their success is down to Guyana?

First in that central casino of global capitalism, the City of London. Small fortunes are made (and lost) there daily, weekly and annually. The Guyanese have their fingers in that pie. At the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, set up to rebuild post-communist Eastern Europe, Michelle Small manages a portfolio of 700 billion euros of property in Eastern Europe. At ABN (Amro), a trading bank, there is a clutch of Guyanese: Kenrick Ramlochan is a director for Europe specialising in risk analysis, Don Kayum runs the quantitative analysis section, Rawle Parris specialises in trading derivatives, Rawle Adams sells interest rate products to institutional clients.

In business and the law, Audra Proctor is managing partner in Changefirst which specialises in IT change in organisations. Her near sound-alike Andrea Proctor practices as a lawyer in London and New York. In medicine, Samantha Tross is the first black female orthopaedic consultant in the UK. Vibert Noble is a consultant in Nottingham specialising in paediatrics in the newborn and allergies. In the services, Gary Munroe is an engineering officer in the RAF and a computer developer and businessman manqué. All of the 'Ten who have made it' were either born in Guyana or in the UK of Guyanese parents.

Firstly, how much of a role model did the first generation the (Real) 'Guyanese mafia' provide? Its apex, the Leader of the House of Lords comes in for much praise; "I admire Lady Amos, especially because of her achievements despite being non-UK born and female. Many times that combination can conspire against you!" says Andrea Proctor, lawyer. Audra Proctor, change consultant, is more generic: "I feel an inherent sense of pride to know that these people are Guy-anese or of Guy-anese heritage because they present such a positive and progressive face for a country and society that has not always received such a good press. People now do associate achievement and hard working with the term Guyanese."

Royal Air Force Officer and putative businessman Gary Munroe feels that national pride (at one remove) too "It makes you feel proud to be Guyanese knowing there are so many Guyanese in excellent professions and positions" whilst medical consultant Vibert Noble recalls some of his role models of old "The prominent Guyanese who I held up in front of my friends were the cricketers … from Lance Gibbs and Rohan Kanhai to Clive Lloyd … Fredericks … Croft etc"

But what does it mean to be Guyanese and how Guyanese are the Top Ten? On education, there is a gender divide. Some, mainly the women, went to school in Guyana - Michelle Small to Stella Maris, Audra Proctor sent back from the UK to the same school and St Rose's High later before, like Trevor Phillips, coming to Britain for her university education, Andrea Proctor went to Queen's College and the Bishops' High School, Samantha Tross to St Gabriel's Primary before qualifying for Queen's College but then instead, being sent to boarding school in Britain. Gary Munroe, alone among the men, was a Stella Maris boy followed by St Joseph's High School.

One thing their parents did bring across the Atlantic was the Guyanese love of education and the success gene. Remember Lady Amos and the headmaster father who would not accept that 96% was a good enough mark in History! This generation had discipline and the value of learning instilled in them too from the cradle. For some, it has been their cornerstone. "The Guyanese way of life is my foundation" says Audra Proctor. "It instilled core personal discipline, sound judgement, generosity and solid educational foundation. It is the reason I can smile freely, and strive for higher and higher achievement." Their exemplars usually were parents who had left their homeland for a new and better life for their children. Don Kayum recalls the poverty of his early years in London. "We started with absolutely nothing here. My dad was a bus conductor. No other member of my family went to school past the age of 15." Samantha Tross found her exemplars close to home "My role models have been my parents, who came from very poor backgrounds and made something of themselves. Though poor, their parents understood the value of education and made sure my parents had proper schooling. They in turn did the same for me."

'Education, Education, Education' was long a mantra in Guyanese households - wherever in the world they were situated - long before Tony Blair commandeered it as his own.

But it was not just pure book learning but also socialisation of other kinds they got with their navel string. "The upbringing and friendly Guyanese culture has also helped me in this very cut throat business" says Michelle Small of the EBRD. "I truly believe that this breaks down many barriers, especially in Eastern Europe." Fellow City worker Rawle Adams, born in Guyana but brought up in Zambia, has mixed-nationals exemplars "I don't really differentiate between West Indian and African role models. I get inspiration from anybody like me who is making progress" is his personal mantra today.

The Britain of two or three decades ago, to which they came, or into which they were brought, was not known for its welcoming of outsiders, especially of another colour, even those from former colonies of the Empire. Frankly, it was racist. For some, colour defined them and their possible parameters of achievement or it could have done. Vibert Noble, consultant doctor says "It wasn't so much that I was Guyanese that moulded me in those early years, but more the fact that I was different from most of my friends. In the days when race relations and discrimination laws were in their infancy, one had to develop ways to survive. It was about that time that someone fortunately coined the phrase "Black is Beautiful!"

That realisation led to much positive discrimination - as individuals or as a group: "In the eighties and early nineties, thing were very hard for young black professionals" recalls Michelle Small, banker. "The first house I bought (in 1988) was with Guyanese friends, this house became the centre for everyone and often, people would stop by on their way home from various jobs for a chat and a drink." She established, in essence, a local Guyanese home from home as her citadel.

Samantha Tross, Consultant surgeon, was, on the other hand, having none of the 'second class citizen' - if you're black stay black - stuff. "I learnt early that as a black person no career path was out of my reach. I grew up surrounded by black people in eminent positions of authority." Today, the generations who were discriminated against on grounds of race, colour or nationality in childhood are precisely those in the positions of authority in their adopted land. Whatever their colour. Britain has changed for the better.

Back in their motherland or mother's land they can only look on as interested spectators to the national drama unravelling there. Some see hope and want to help. Rawle Adams, City Trader said, "There are numerous ways the diaspora can help: one that springs to mind is to help to introduce technology to better utilise the abundant natural resources." Samantha Tross, Consultant Surgeon: "Ultimately I would like to spend part of the year working in Guyana and the rest in the UK, building bridges and being involved in the training of upcoming surgeons. I would like the option of retiring there one day." Gary Munroe, RAF Officer, looks at the crime situation and possible solutions: "If I had to make an instant decision - it would be looking at the security issues of Guyana and what programmes need to be put in place to regain control of the youth and stem the mindless violence that appears to be engulfing Guyana."

But any hope is mixed with despair and even apocalyptic visions. Audra Proctor: "My primary impression is that the entrenched divides along racial lines have or are stripping the soul out of Guyana and disenfranchising many young talents - we could learn a lot from South Africa about reconciliation. My secondary impression is that somehow we have lost sight of and pride in our riches - beautiful, resilient people, minerals, gems and so on".

Some look forward to the longer haul. "The reclamation of Guyana is not a one person effort" says Gary Munroe. "It will be a mammoth task that needs some visionaries, shakers and movers, to begin a long term investment programme and the re-education of the people who have fallen into the malaise."

Some of those very visionaries may well come from amongst these young achievers. Guyanese worldwide should be proud of them; perhaps they deserve their own special category in the next Guyana High Commission (UK) Awards in 2008. As one 'mafia' fades, it gives way to another.

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