Another act of shame by embattled Lebanese president Michel Aoun, this time for stealing a large quantity of tea meant for the poor and needed. Aoun is in hot water after it was revealed that tea donated by Sri Lanka for victims of the Beirut blast was distributed to families of his presidential guards.
By Arthur Blok
‘Tea Gate’ is another, rather delicate, example of institutionalized corruption in a country reeling from the August 4 explosion that killed at least 190 people, wounded thousands and ravaged central Beirut.
Sri Lanka donated 1,675 kilos of Ceylon tea in an effort to show support in the wake of the devastating blast in the Beirut Port. The president’s office released a picture of Aoun receiving the Sri Lankan ambassador saying Colombo had donated the Ceylon tea “to those affected by the Beirut blast.”
After questioned about the use of the tea, Aoun’s office released a statement saying the “Ceylon tea had been received by the army… and distributed to the families of soldiers in the presidential guard.”
Aoun received backlash, with “tea-thief” and “Ceylon-tea-thief” trending on Twitter. Former Lebanese Member of Parliament Paula Yacoubian said that “distributing the aid to your entourage is shameful.”
The MP who resigned after the blast added: “The tea was sent to the Lebanese, particularly those affected by the explosion. It wasn’t a present for those who don’t need it.”
Storm in a teacup
Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Lebanon, Shani Calyaneratne Karunaratne, said the controversy was merely “a storm in a teacup.” The ambassador said the tea was a gift for Aoun who was free to do with it as he wished.
Sri Lanka was one of several nations that rushed to show support after Lebanon’s worst peacetime disaster last month.