Beirut: Lebanon, ravaged by political deadlock and an economic meltdown that has left it in a constant crisis, added another question to its list of problems on Sunday: “What time?”
After opposition from the Maronite Church, a last-minute decision was made to delay daylight savings for a month. This has caused the country to be divided into two time zones.
Thursday’s announcement by Lebanon’s interim government was that it will delay the forwarding of clocks until April 20 instead of the end of March, as is often the case in Lebanon and other countries in the northern hemisphere.
Instead, institutions such as the church and some schools and media outlets insist on moving their clocks forward at midnight (22200 GMT Saturday).
Although the government has not explained, the video shared widely on social media might give some clues.
It shows Najib Mikati, the caretaker prime minister, and Nabih Birr, the parliament speaker. Berri asks Najib to delay the clock’s change until Ramadan ends in an apparent effort to accommodate Muslims who fast every day until sunset during Ramadan.
Abbas Halabi, Education Minister, stated Sunday that the last-minute decision had “inflamed sectarian discussion” and that a cabinet decision was necessary to implement the change.
He stated via Twitter that schools and universities should observe daylight saving time as initially planned, but some institutions already said they would adhere to the rollback.
Pierre Daher, CEO of LBCI Lebanese broadcaster, stated, “the worst thing was that the decision about when to start summertime took a sectarian twist.”
The channel stated that it would defy government decisions as delays would impact its operations.
Daher told AFP that if the government had decided a month earlier than 48 hours before, there would have been no problem.
Other Lebanese networks also moved the clocks forward.
Mikati called the move “purely administrative” in a statement released Saturday.
However, the Maronite Church was adamant that the decision was taken “without consultations and with no regard for international standards”.
Walid Ghayad, a church spokesperson, told AFP that a decision like this should be made a year in advance to avoid harm to people’s lives. It cannot be done over a cup of coffee.
He said the church refused to comply to stop “further Isolating Lebanon”.
Two prominent Christian political parties called for the government’s reversal.
Gebran Bassil, the Free Patriotic Movement, chirped: “Do NOT adjust your clocks. They will move forward automatically.
‘Which timing? ‘
Two major telecommunications companies in Lebanon advised customers to switch to manual clock settings for mobile phones over the weekend to avoid the automatic change.
Justice Minister Henri Khoury supports calls for Mikati to reverse the decision. He said it would have “catastrophic” consequences for an economy in free fall since 2019.
Khoury stated that the decision caused confusion and disturbances among religious authorities and private media.
While implementing the delay, the government, flag carrier Middle East Airlines said it would change departure times by an hour to comply with international flight schedules.
On Sunday, Marissa Daoud, a passenger from France, expressed confusion at Beirut’s international airport.
She told AFP that she didn’t know what time it was.
“How do I put it up on my phone?” What time?
Lebanese attacked the bizarre dispute on social media, with some mockingly alluding to sectarian tensions that led to a civil war between 1975-1990.
Twitter user: “Will our children learn in history books that civil war began in Lebanon in 2023 because the clock didn’t move forward?”