South Asian Federation of Accountants is an apex body of South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) which as a forum of professional accountancy bodies is committed to positioning, maintaining and developing the accountancy profession in SAARC region. The SAFA Students’ Exchange Program has become an increasingly estimable event among the CA students of SAARC region. It has provided a platform which focuses on areas beyond the traditional classroom work and provides an opportunity to the students to exchange the knowledge, thoughts and cultural values of different South Asian countries.
In March 2010 some Pakistani students were extended an opportunity to take part in 24th Annual SAFA Students Conference organized by The Practicing Accountants’ Chartered Students’ Society (PACSS) with the patronage of Institute of Chartered Accountants Sri Lanka (ICASL). The conference was part of the SAFA Students’ Exchange Program scheduled from March 2 to March 7, 2010. Following students were selected by Institute of Chartered Accountants Pakistan (ICAP) for its representation in the conference:
Fazal Abbas (A.F.Ferguson & Co.)
Sarim Irfan (A.F.Ferguson & Co.)
Faisal Zawwar (Ernst & Young Ford Rohdes Sidat Hyder)
The Pakistan delegation left the country on 28th February and arrived at Colombo where the conference was scheduled to be held. We were warmly welcomed by the President, Chairman and General Secretary of the PACSS at Bandaranaike International airport from where we headed to the hotel.
I heard of Colombo as a busy and vibrant city and the financial capital of Sri Lanka and duely witnessed it in the visit. The tour which was destinied to attend the SAFA conference made me and my other Pakistani friends able to visit and enjoy Colombo, meet and admire the people out there who made us feel like we were always a part of them. If I analyze right at the moment I would like to say that, in the busy life of Colombo where the financial centres and business ports situate and the corporate offices & commercial substance prevail, I felt a deep multicultural and traditional touch which runs parallel to the modern life existant in it.
Being there a day before the confrence, Pakistani delegation got a chance to visit the city. The commercial establishment of the city was remarkable. The main city is home to a majority of the Sri Lankan corporate offices, restaurants, entertainment venues and The World Trade Centre, which is the main centre of commercial life in Colombo. Underneath the busy commercial and modern life of Colombo I felt the muticultural traditional touch covering whole the city.
We visited the city for whole the day, Mr Fazeer, Namus & Ramesh, members of PACSS took us to Gangaramaya Temple and told the brief history of the beautiful temple situated in the heart of the city. The place which was once a swamp adjoining the famous Beira Lake ( a landmark in the capital city) is today a vibrant complex comprising the Seema Malaka in the picturesque Beira Lake, imposing buildings, bo tree, image house, relic chamber containing the relics of the Buddha, museum, library and alms halls. It is a beautiful representative of the Buddist art like stone carvings and brass work. It contains row upon row of Buddha statues in the meditating pose.
Later half of the day was spent near ocean visiting Galle Face Green promenade, enjoying the open air and chit chat with the Sri Lankan friends who were telling the life routines of the majority of the Colombo residents and their favourite pass times. The love of the Colombo residents for the place was evident from the very rush of people out threre. It felt very refreshing near the ocean where the nature was up and young with her very beauty. I don’t think we missed any chance of camera clicking to save the loveable scenery which provided the pleasing sensation to eyes and refresh the memories of the tour.
Next day we went to ICASL, where we were warmly welcomed by Nilushi Dissanayke, Head of Education and Training, ICASL. We visited the whole institute and met the students who were busy in the preparation of the SAFA confrence which was to be held on 3rd March. The devotion and the hardwork with which all of them were working was quite appreciable and impressive. They were putting every effort to make the event a sheer success.
No one of us knew that we were going to have such a nice experience in the evening. Fazeer who was with us in every visit took us to his family. We experienced the true, traditional Srilankan hospitality out there. That was a lovely evening where I was able to observe the traditional Sri Lankan life, their norms & behaviours. We had dinner with the family and were served with delicious Kothu.
3rd March was a great success in the history of PACSS, when in the magnificent setting of Galadari Hotel, over 550 students, decision-makers and other key stakeholders converged to participate in the 24th Annual CA Students’ Conference with the theme “Thrive in Chaos”. The honorable guests were welcomed with traditional Kandyian dance which was followed by lighting of oil lamp and national anthem. There were three technical session in the conference which were graced by the distinguished personalities from ICASL and corporate sector of Sri Lanka.
The inaugural session focused on the theme of conference i.e. “Thrive in Chaos”. Mr. Arshad Hazaree, President of PACSS, delivered a welcome speech after which key note speaker Mr. Ronnie Peiris FCMA, an Executive Director of the John Keells Holdings PLC addressed. The global financial crisis poses tough challenges but it also presents great opportunities, was the key thrust of his speech. His speech was followed by the addresses of President of ICASL, Mr. Sujeewa Mudalige and Patron of PACSS, Mr. Reyaz Mihular.
Second session started with a presentation by the ICASL student on the topic “Managing Change, Maintaining Excellence”. It was followed by the address of Mr. Pravir Samarasinghe FCA, Chief Operating Officer of Richard Pieris & Company PLC, on the topic “Creating Meaningful Change during the Tough Times”. “Islamic Finance – A cure for Ailing Markets” was the topic of next address by Mr. Surech Perera, Principal KPMG. The Pakistan students delegate actively participated in all Question and Answers sessions and discussions on topic which was highly appreciated by the guest speakers.
The third and final session started with address by Mr. Dinesh Weerakody, Managing Director of Cornucopia Lanka Limitd, on the topic “Hiring the right fit”. He highly appreciated the participation of Pakistan Delegate in discussion with him. Mr. Sarim Irfan was also given a chance to present a paper on “Survival of the Fittest”. The presentation was highly applauded by all and sundry. A very informative speech was given by Mr. Dharsha Welikala, General Manager Human Resources for I D Lanka Limited, on the topic “Appeal to the Gut Feel”. The presence and participation of SAFA students’ foreign delegates was acknowledged by giving souvenirs to them. The conference ended with a vote of thanks by Mr. Ahmad Shihab, Chairman Organizing Committee of PACSS. The event was very well organized by PACSS and was by all accounts a resounding success in terms of contents and organization as well as learning and networking opportunities.
On 4th of March we visited leading auditing firms in Sri Lanka namely: PwC, E&Y and KPMG. We were given firsthand exposure on the functioning of these reputed CA firms in Sri Lanka. We interacted with our counterparts in the firms and learned about their way of working and approaches followed by them as far as Sri Lankan industry is concerned. The Partners and Managers at the firms also explained their working style which was very helpful in enhancing our overall knowledge. In the evening we had dinner with the member of PACSS where we planned for a trip to Kandy next day.
Next day we left Colombo early in the morning and went to Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage which is situated half ways between Colombo and Kandy in the hills of central Sri Lanka. It is place which has been established in order to afford care and protection to the many orphaned elephants found in the jungle. With over 100 elephants it is very popular among local and foreign tourists. We got the opportunity to observe the bathing elephants from the broad river bank when herd was interacting socially, bathing and playing.
At arount 1PM we touched the land of Kandy, the beautiful hill capital of Sri Lanka. We offered Juma prayers at one of the biggest & magnificent mosque of Kandy. The city is mainly famous for Temple of Tooth, where Buddha’s tooth is kept. After lunch we set off for “Riverstone” a place about 50 miles away from City. Those mighty mountains with waterfalls present the awsome view. The beautiful scenery is enough to capture all the attentions of a human deep into it. We climbed on the mountains and walked in tea gardens, which was very cheerful and refreshing. On our way back to Colombo we had dinner in a roadside hotel which was more like the countryside hotels in Pakistan. This day was one of the finest days we spent at Sri Lanka and surely unforgettable.
6th of March was last day of our stay at Sri Lanka. We went to Mount Lavinia beach resort which is about twelve kilometers south from Colombo, on the road to Galle. It lies alongside a wind-swept headland jutting into the waters of the Indian Ocean. Speed boat ride in Indian Ocean was an amazing and joyful experience. In evening all the members of the PACSS got together at Excel World for the dinner. Siraj Mansoor, Public Relations Secretary of PACSS, sung some beautiful Urdu songs which was very entertaining. We exchanged out autograph with all the students to add fragrance to our memories of those days.
Next day morning we went out for shopping and bought some beautiful Sri Lankan handicrafts. Then we left for airport to leave for our motherland.
This tour is unforgettable and ever fresh in our minds. It made us observe the love and hospitality of the Sri Lankans. We cherished all the moments we spent with our Sri Lankan friends. It gave us chance to understand the norms, business environment and cultural standing out there in Sri Lanka.
This article was published in ‘Impressions’, the in-house magazine of PwC Pakistan.