It was way back in 1972 some of our professionals headed by Dr Nath Amarakone accompanied by Dr H.W Jayawardena , Dr S A Cabraal and others met Mr John Chadwick , the first Director of the Commonwealth Foundation to discuss setting up of a professional grouping to add a new dimension to CHOGM, the political grouping as was decided at a meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1965.
At this discussion the possibility of creating a professional group was considered and it was decided to canvass the views of the local professional groupings to discuss what steps should be taken to achieve their objectives.
In 1972 a meeting of the professional grouping was convened for this purpose and to this meeting 28 associations responded. At this meeting a steering committee was set up to carry out the preliminary work connected with setting up of an organization of Professional Associations for Sri Lanka. .
While one group was working on the formation of the Organisation another group was tasked with preparing a draft constitution for the organization.
The drafting committee sent out to the steering committee and also to other professional associations not represented in the steering committee, requesting them to consider the draft constitution and to send their observations and suggestions. The drafting committee met subsequently and considered the observations and suggestions received and accordingly made necessary amendment to the constitution.
On the 29th of April 1975 the representatives of professionals association met at the ASTW headquarters and adopted the constitution empowering the drafting committee to convene the inaugural meeting of the general forum and to take steps to elect the first office bearers and the first executive committee members of the organization.
As the OPA activities were going on, it was noticed that only a few member associations had their permanent offices and most members were unable to procure premises of their own in Colombo and the committee appointed to look after the interest of these member associations were keen to provide facilities for such members by the setting up of a professional centre.
OPA then decided to request a plot of land from the government for the construction of a Professional Centre and we received a grant of a hectare of land in a prime location in Colombo. Plans and other necessary mandatory requirements were put in place for the construction of a three storied building with a total floor area of 18,000 sq feet and building operations commenced.
We applied for financial assistance from the Commonwealth Foundation for the construction of the Centre and we received a generous grant of GBP 45,000/- in two installments. Member associations who requested for space donated the monies collected for their building fund to reserve space in the Professional Centre Visiting Directors of the Commonwealth Foundation from time to time were pleased with the progress made in the construction of the Professional Centre.
Through the intervention of the Commonwealth Foundation we received a donation from the Barclays Bank to fund the furnishing of the ground floor of the Centre which housed the OPA Secretariat, the Auditorium, Restaurant and Bar at the Professional Centre.
In September 1982, the Professional Centre was declared open by the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka His Excellency J R Jayawardena.
The first and second floors are now occupied by 32 member associations.
Regular seminars and workshops on topical subjects and themes are held on a regular basis and are well attended. We also run a research centre to deliberate on national issues.
After the successful completion of the formation of the OPA and the constructing of the Professional Centre this created a hive of activities conducted by the OPA and the resident member associations.
We did not have a proper approach road to the Professional Centre. The only approach was from Bauddhaloka Mawatha end which ended up at the centre.
We then approached the then Mayor of Colombo Mr Hussain Mohamed to create a connecting road from Bauddhaloka Mawatha and Reid Avenue. The Mayor agreed to construct the road and it was finalized in 1985. When the road opposite the then Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation was closed for traffic the government took over the improvements to this road link to allow the traffic to reach Reid Avenue. After the road work was completed this road was named Stanley Wijesundera Mawatha which provided easy access to the University, the Planetarium and the OPA.
Thus by this time all infrastructures needed were completed for the OPA to function without any impediments.
These facilities are fully utilized by the member associations by organizing seminars, workshops and awareness programmes in addition to the meetings of their own members.
With 48 member associations now affiliated to the OPA the Professional Centre is a hive of activities and assist the members in their various deliberations.
We commenced our Annual Sessions programme in 1988 and during the last few years it was renamed as Annual Conference, dealing with current issues decided by the Annual Conference Committee of the OPA. Last year the theme of the Conference was “Strategic Imperatives for Economic Growth” and was held on 28th and 29th September 2017 at the Cinnamon Lakeside in Colombo
OPA has been providing professional inputs to NGOs through OPANGO the NGO extension of the OPA. through conducting workshops and seminars for the benefit of the NGO community..