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Sri Lankans set to adjust clocks on April 14

Lankans will be re-adjusting their clocks for the third time in 10 years when they put them back by half-an-hour, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2006 15:06 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran

Sri Lankans will be re-adjusting their clocks for the third time in10 years when they put them back by half-an-hour on April 14, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year's Day.

The state-owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) announced on Saturday that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had decided to go back to the original time of GMT plus 5.30 hours (which is the same as Indian Standard Time) on receiving representations from parents of school children.

School in Sri Lanka start very early, and with most pupils coming from distant places, GMT plus 6.00 hours was apparently putting a lot of pressure on the children as well as their parents in the early hours of the day.

It was President Chandrika Kumaratunga who first adjusted the time. On May 24, 1996, she put the clock ahead by one hour in order to save energy.

Sri Lanka, at that time, was undergoing a severe power shortage and it was considered prudent to start early to make fuller use of the day light hours.

But one hour was too much for the school children and their parents to take.

Following representations, Kumaratunga reduced the advancement to half an hour on October 25, 1996.

There had been no complaints since then. But suddenly, without any discussion or debate in the media or elsewhere, the Rajapaksa government last weekend announced a decision to go back to the pre-1996 situation when Sri Lankan time accorded with Indian Standard Time (GMT plus 5.30 hours).

Political cynics say that the main reason may be Rajapaksa's on-going programme to undo all that his predecessor and chief detractor, Chandrika Kumaratunga, had done during her eleven year rule.

LTTE never changed the time

Always defying the Sri Lankan state, the LTTE did not follow the government when the time was advanced by one hour in May 1996 and by half and hour in October that year.

The LTTE's radio programmes, press conference timings and even the timing of the annual broadcast of its leader Prabhakaran went by the old system which was in line with IST.

Rajapaksa's move has come in for criticism from the press. The Island daily said in an edit on Monday, that the move lacked any justification.

"Sri Lanka has earned notoriety for changing everything haphazardly, " it commented.

First Published: Mar 07, 2006 01:37 IST