Lebanon: In times of crisis, Lebanese squabble over clock change


Opposition came from the influential church over a last-minute decision in Lebanon to delay daylight savings, leaving the small country divided between two time zones.

Wracked by economic crisis and political strife, a seemingly strange question was added on Sunday to Lebanon’s growing list of woes: “What time is it?”

The caretaker government announced Thursday its decision to delay the clocks rolling forward until April 20, instead of the last week of March as is usual in Lebanon and much of the northern hemisphere.

But institutions including the Maronite Church, schools and media outlets urged them to turn their clocks forward at midnight (2200 GMT Saturday).

“If the government had taken the decision a month ago, and not 48 hours in advance, there would not be a problem,” said Pierre Daher, CEO of the Lebanese broadcaster LBCI.

The channel said in a statement that it would oppose the government’s decision as the delay would affect its operations.

Three other Lebanese networks also moved clocks forward.

But Daher said his concerns went beyond programs.

“The worst thing is that the decision when to start summer has taken a sectarian turn,” he told AFP.

Although the government did not explain the move, a video shared widely on social media may provide an explanation.

It shows a debate between the caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati and the speaker of the parliament Nabih Berri, who asks the prime minister to wait for the clock change until the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in what appears to be an attempt to accommodate Muslims who fast daily to. sunset.

– ‘Confusion and division’ –

Lebanon’s powerful Maronite Church said it would not abide by the government’s decision, which was made “without consultation and without any regard for international standards”.

“A decision like this should have been announced a year earlier to harm people’s lives,” church spokesman Walid Ghayad told AFP. “It can’t be done over a cup of coffee.”

The church’s action was to prevent “further isolation of Lebanon”, he said.

Two prominent political parties called on the government to reverse its decision.

And Gebran Bassil, leader of one of them, the Free Love Movement, tweeted: “Don’t change your clocks, they will move on automatically.”

On many phones and other electronic devices, they did.

Lebanon’s two major telecommunications companies advised customers over the weekend to manually set clocks on mobile phones to avoid the automatic change.

Justice Minister Henri Khoury backed calls for Mikati to reverse the decision, which would have “catastrophic” consequences for an economy in freefall from 2019.

“The decision created confusion and caused divisions and turmoil among religious authorities, private media and educational institutions,” Khoury said in a statement.

Many schools, mostly Christian, have joined daylight savings time, but some other institutions have followed the government.

Flag carrier Middle East Airlines, in implementing the government-ordered delay, said it would move departure times by one hour to comply with international flight schedules.

Lebanon has criticized the impenetrable dispute on social media, with some jokingly referencing the sectarian tensions that fueled a bloody 1975-1990 civil war.

One user said on Twitter: “Will our children read in history books that the civil war in Lebanon started in 2023 because the clock was not turned forward?”

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