Saturday, 18 April 2015

Suflan as I remember him (Updated)

I was having breakfast with a junior from my secondary school when I received the message of the passing away of Suflan, a colleague who just left the organisation we both serve a number of weeks earlier.

The last time I saw him was around two weeks earlier. Myself and a number of other colleagues of mine visited him at the hospital where he was undergoing treatment for the illness he was enduring. While we all could sense his pain, Suflan was excited seeing us and we certainly had a very honest and meaningful conversation about the experiences that we went through together. He accepted his situation and was very clear of how the final leg of his journey would be.

Professionally we did not necessarily agree with each other on all issues. Sometimes, our views could be well apart. I am really pleased that at the end of the day, nothing was taken at the personal level. After all, we are fellow mortals who are on the same journey towards our destinies.

An avid musicians, Suflan brought his creative minds into an organisation which are dealing with serious issues. Sometimes he was very philosophical and would argue his viewpoints from totally unique angles. Over time, I could appreciate where he was coming from and Suflan was consistent with the foundation of his thoughts and views.

Towards the last few months of his final journey Suflan wanted to share his feelings and thoughts through his blog. I am sure you will be touched with the stories and the carefully chosen words he used.

I feel what he wrote in one of the postings indicated the clarity that he had in his mind on his final days:

"Today, when staring at my own mortality straight in the face, I realise that prayer and remembrance of God is really not for His benefit. It is for ours. It is a practice and discipline that allows you to clear a channel of energy tapping into and communicating with forces of the unseen, that in turn helps you function on a day to day basis with clarity of thought and purpose. Perhaps had I known this before, much of my life would not have been a journey through a barren desert"

It was too early to wish Suflan good bye but Allah knows what is the best for him. May Allah accords Suflan with His forgiveness and blessings and may we see each other again in Jannah.

إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ 

اللهم اغْفِرْ لَهُ وارْحَمهُ وعافِهِ واعفُ عنه

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Choices in Life

I was sharing about professional judgment and scepticism with accounting students at Universiti Malaya last Friday. Quite a heavy topic for those who are still learning about the accountancy profession. However, I reminded the students that judgment is what we do everyday. I quoted the example of the shirts they were wearing when attending the session. Yes, even selecting what you are going to wear involves judgment. It is something that we do everyday, as a sign that we are still alive.

Reflecting on the issue of judgement, it is normally predicated on a range of choices. Rightfully, the choices should be premised on facts, assumptions, thoughts and the values that we believe in. In deciding which of the choices we would be acting on, I suppose one will try to ensure his or her personal interests would be best served by the chosen path. 

How do we decide which option would best serve our interests? Do we take into consideration the effect to others, especially on issues where the option  would cause many people to experience the consequences of our judgement? I suppose the width of our net of consideration would be dependent on the subject, our position and more importantly what guides us in determining right and wrong, our values.

As one moves up higher in the hierarchy of the society, the consequences of one's judgment would have more significant influence over the society. Whether one is a politician, judge, public officer or spiritual leader, one cannot just think about oneself alone. Unfortunately, based on many things which we are seeing and hearing today, we might be wondering whether the better good of the society is paramount when people in the higher echelons exercise their judgments. Mere mortals like you and me are also subjected to this question in the little things that we do in the space which we could influence.

For those who believe in the Day of Judgement where all actions that they make in this world would be scrutinised and judged by the Lord of the Lords, I am sure they would appreciate that every single decision is a step towards salvation or retribution. 

One may hold the highest of position and could be feeling invisible, however, one may not escape the consequences of one's judgement or decision, what more when such decisions and actions are abusive and cause troubles to people. On the other hand, one could be humiliated and shamed now, but later, in the afterlife, such challenging experience could be the pathway for eternal happiness.

We certainly have many choices in what we do. Some may feel fulfilled if the choices we take provide us with the maximum benefits to us in terms of wealth and other material gains. Some would go beyond our self-interest and would also consider what is the greater good of the society. Off course the choices are ours and the consequences would also be ours and ours alone.

Have a great weekend : )

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Pak Engku - The Down to Earth Accountant

Just imagine when you were the new kid on block and the youngest of them all. How would you feel when you were surrounded by more senior people, may who were known for their achievements and contributions to the country? Intimidated?

That was how I felt when joining the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) council for the first time in 2000. However, to my surprise, many of them were humble and nice, notwithstanding their stature in the society. Different from many people out there who have not achieved much but behave as if the whole world owe them a lot.

One of the personalities that provided me with many insights, wisdom, guidance and support when I was involved in the accountancy profession was Raja Dato' Seri Abdul Aziz Raja Salim or more fondly known as Pak Engku. He was the only person that had the privilege of being both the Director General of Inland Revenue and later the Accountant General. I believe this record would not be broken forever. Having him on the Council was helpful indeed, especially when we had to deal with the government and public sector.

Not only Pak Engku was very approachable, he was very forthcoming in sharing his experiences, something which I treasure until today. By helping me to understand the contexts of certain events in the past, Pak Engku provided me with the right perspectives and insights which were relevant in my work at the MIA and in dealing with the society at large.

Honesty and integrity were characters which Pak Engku was associated with. Pak Engku had been very consistent in demonstrating that those values could be applied in the work that we do, irrespective of where we are in the hierarchy of the society.  I suppose people in his generation understood the meaning of nation building differently than many of us today. Many of them were involved in the setting up of many institutions which became the pillars of our society until today. Under those situation, having the best interest of the society in mind would be important than trying to promote self-interests.

We used to travel together to the ASEAN Federation of Accountants (AFA) Council meetings where both of us were council members. Certainly he was well respected by his peers in the region and when the council were having difficulties to address certain delicate issues, views from Pak Engku would carried weight in the final decisions. Whenever we travelled, we will have coffee after dinner together with his wife, fondly known as Mak Engku. This was when we shared many stories around the profession and society, conversations which were rich in insights and wisdom. In fact, what I learnt during these coffee sessions were really helpful later in my life.

Let me share a bit about Pak Engku and Mak Engku. They were certainly a very loving couple although as with many others they tend to have different views on many things. However, their love and affection to one another were obvious. There was an incident in Bangkok when we decided to explore night shopping and agreed to meet at a particular place. They were split and I was with Mak Engku. Somehow, we did not meet the other group where Pak Engku was with. Mak Engku decided to proceed with our plan. We did not realise that Pak Engku was so worried that he went back to the hotel and waited for Mak Engku at the lobby. We only realised this when we reached the hotel and saw him waiting anxiously. Both were great singers and they would never disappoint us at karaoke sessions which were the norms during AFA Council meetings those days.

Pak Engku was called back by his Creator on 4 March 2015. Certainly it was a great loss to the country. A towering Malaysian with honest heart, somebody like him will be difficult to replaced. إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَSurely we belong to Allah and surely to Him we shall return. It was an honour to know him and be guided by his wisdom and insights. 

اللهم اغْفِرْ لَهُ وارْحَمهُ وعافِهِ واعفُ عنه

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Building a Nation

A friend of mine who is a Chartered Accountant from Australia (his father was also a Chartered Accountant from Australia!) forwarded me with number of old newspaper articles regarding the Colombo Plan, an initiative to advance the social and economic status of people from South East Asia.

It was very interesting that accountancy was identified as a profession which is important in nation building. Hence, under the Colombo Plan, quite a number of young Malays from Malaysia was sent to Australia to pursue the Chartered Accountancy qualification. 

Given that NO CONCESSION was given to these young Malaysians, they were selected based on their potential. Way back in the 50's, when globalisation was yet to be a concern and the need to be competitive was not as critical as today, these young Malays were expected to achieve the same standards as those Chartered Accountants in Australia. 

It is very difficult for me not to acknowledge the progressiveness of the thinking of out forefathers in building this nation. To be successful, one has to attain REAL COMPETENCY and COMPETENCY CANNOT BE FAKED through nice soundings qualification when the underlying substance were never tested and proven.

Fast forward into the future and more than 60 years later, we are still struggling to decide whether accountants here should demonstrate their competency before being recognised as one! 

If we consider the earlier batches of Malays who pursued and attained their professional qualification in Australia under the Colombo Plan, they did not disappoint the nation. Many were involved in the setting up of many institutions which are the pillars of our society today. Some when into public accountancy and were the pioneers in setting up what presently known as the Big-4 firms. Others went into entrepreneurship and some ended up as successful entrepreneurs or professional managers.

Nation building is tough and it requires people who are capable and have the ability to compete with the best. Once we pitch our people just to be the average Joe, the risks of complacency and mediocrity would be amplified and as a nation we could lose our competitiveness.

Let's have some ideas about the Colombo Plan on accountancy from these newspaper cuttings.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

When The Flood Recedes, What Do We Do?

There is no further need to discuss about the extent of damages caused by the recent flooding at the East Coast. Kelantan is one of the affected states and also one of the worst affected. As I am writing, the extent of the damages is still being counted (I hope) by the authorities (plural emphasised!).

There is no doubt of the citizenship spirits being demonstrated by ordinary Malaysians in helping those affected. I am sure many people received donations, assistance and help from people who they do not know or even met in their lives before. The volunteer themselves distributed goods donated by those who remained faceless, using facilities e.g. helicopters and 4x4 vehicles that came from nowhere. The faces of the donors will remain faceless and won't appear on tv or even social media.

While there are still places and people where food and other needs are still required, there will be a stage where more serious thinking (I am not seeing that being demonstrated, perhaps because we cannot see what in people's mind) need to be demonstrated and executed.

The victims could be classified into several categories. Those who lost their houses, those with houses but lost everything else, those whose source of income disappeared and those who can't move on with their lives because those around them fall into the earlier categories. Each of them would require different kind of assistance and this is where data and information become important. Unfortunately, this task would have to be taken by people with authorities, no amount of volunteerism could make up any shortcoming of those with power.

I am not sure how much is being worked on the re-construction stage of this continuing episode. For those who lost everything, how would they re-start their  lives? Would they be building their homes at the same spot where their houses were built, at the low level areas which are flooded year-in and year-out? Could they be moved to higher grounds? Do they need to pay for the land? Wow, so many questions! I managed to ask one of them about when would they be rebuilding their homes. The answer was very simple, "We had been rebuilding our homes a number of times and they kept on being destroyed when it flooded. Each time we build, it would cost us RM 30,000 to RM 40,000. We had given up!".

Many of us would be able to recall the song Bangau Oh Bangau. It is about finding the cause of a thin stork, which the blame eventually fall on the snake. Honestly, I have not seen any Bangau in Kuala Krai or it's surrounding area but I also hope that this song is not going to be played and replayed as well.