President Aoun Under Fire Over Sri Lankan Tea Donation

President Aoun Under Fire Over Sri Lankan Tea Donation
Reuters | Amelia and JP

A Sri Lankan gift to Lebanon consisting of over a tonne of tea has sparked a lot of anger and controversy among the Lebanese.

Like many other countries, Sri Lanka was swift to support Lebanon after the devastating Beirut Port explosion by donating 1,675 kg of Ceylon tea to the Lebanese presidency.

The outrage came on Tuesday – after the tea had been delivered to Lebanon – when the presidency issued a statement explaining how the donation was being distributed after many people began to raise the critical question.

The statement said that President Michel Aoun had thanked his Sri Lankan counterpart Gotabaya Rajapaksa for “a gift of Ceylon tea that had been received by the army … and distributed to the families of soldiers in the presidential guard.”

The revelation that the tea had been distributed among the presidential guard generated heavy criticism of the President from displeased people on social media, including former MP Paula Yacoubian.

As a result, the hashtag #Tea_thief became the top trending phrase on Twitter in Lebanon, followed by #Ceylon_tea, under both of which hundreds of tweets blasting President Aoun were posted.

Many described the act as a display of corruption, arguing that the donation should have gone to the people affected by the August 4 explosion.

“Thank you for your donation of Ceylon tea, but I think you should seek legal actions against the Lebanese government,” one Twitter user wrote, tagging the official Twitter account of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Lebanon.

“We did not receive the tea. It was distributed to the members of the presidential guard, not the people affected,” the user added.

Many others posted similar messages, with some blaming Sri Lanka for not delivering their aid directly to the people through NGOs and trusted organizations operating on the ground in Beirut.

“The tea was sent to the Lebanese, particularly those affected by your explosion, and, of course, it wasn’t a present for those who don’t need it,” Paula Yacoubian tweeted sarcastically. “Distributing the aid to your entourage is shameful,” she added.

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