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Clarke urges Lanka not to go back in time

Arthur C Clarke has said that this could push up the island nation's energy bill and ward off investors.

india Updated: Apr 15, 2006 11:14 IST

Sri Lanka should ditch a plan to permanently turn its clocks back 30 minutes in April because the move could push up the island's energy bill and ward off investors, resident science fiction guru Arthur C Clarke has warned.

The government announced this month it would reverse a 1996 daylight saving measure that turned clocks forward, putting the island back in synch with neighbouring India -- and Tamil Tiger rebels who run a de facto state in Sri Lanka's north and east.

The government said it made the decision because parents were complaining it was still dark when their children left for school.

Officials suspect President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the change be made on April 14 at the advice of astrologers in a land of deep superstitions.

"The best solution is to start school sessions later," celebrated science fiction author Clarke, who first came to Sri Lanka in the 1950s for diving and became a resident after he fell in love with the place, said in a statement released overnight.

"In today's rapidly globalising world, Sri Lanka cannot afford to keep changing a fundamental attribute like standard time every few years," he added. "Such a move could harm the perception of foreign investors, international banks, airlines and tourists."

A land that produces no oil of its own, Sri Lanka has been pummelled by high international crude prices and the loss-making state electricity board is haemorraghing money.

Sri Lanka is currently six hours ahead of GMT. The change would make it five and a half.

"If we put the clock back by half an hour as proposed, dusk will fall sooner and households will be consuming more electricity for lighting," Clarke said. "Both the country's generation costs and individual bills could go up as a result."

British-born Clarke, who has written more than 80 books, including "2001: A Space Odyssey", was awarded Sri Lanka's highest civilian award in November for his contributions to science and technology and commitment to his adopted country.

He was one of the first people to suggest the use of satellites orbiting the earth for communications, and in the 1940s forecast man would land on the moon by the year 2000 -- an idea experts rubbished at the time.

First Published: Apr 15, 2006 11:14 IST