Lebanese President caught in Sri Lanka tea storm

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has come under fire after it emerged that tea donated by Sri Lanka for victims of the Beirut blast was distributed instead to families of his Presidential Guard.

The Lebanese President’s Office on August 24 released a picture of Aoun receiving the Sri Lankan ambassador, and quoted the Ambassador as saying Colombo had “donated 1,675 kilos (3,685 pounds) of Ceylon Tea to those affected by the Beirut blast”. Social media has since erupted in criticism, with the hashtags “tea thief” and “Ceylon tea” trending on Twitter.

The Lebanese National News Agency yesterday released a clarification on the matter stating that “the news of the distribution of a quantity of Ceylon Tea to the families of the soldiers in the Republican Guard Brigade provoked fake responses as part of a programmed campaign on social media, which aimed as usual, to distort reality and exploit the truth in an ambiguous manner.”

Setting the record straight, the National news agency posted a lengthy clarification issued by the Presidency Information Office yesterday stating that On the 11th of August 2020, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Beirut, informed the Lebanese Foreign Affairs Ministry of the arrival of a diplomatic shipment to Beirut which included 1000 packages of special foodstuffs to be distributed free of charge and 1675 Kilograms of Ceylon Tea, as “a gift to His Excellency, President General Michel Aoun, to express solidarity and friendship between the two countries”.

Accordingly, the Army Command had informed the Presidential Palace Departments about the arrival of the shipment at the Rafic Hariri International Airport on the 14th of August 2020, and requested the receipt of the part related to the President’s gift.

As a follow up, during the Sri Lankan Ambassador’s visit to Baabda Palace on August 24, President Michel Aoun thanked her for presenting the donation consisting of foodstuffs and tea. Later, President Aoun sent a letter of thanks to his Sri Lankan counterpart.

The Presidency Information Office confirmed that Presidency Departments received the tea gift and it was distributed to the soldiers of the Republican Guard Brigade, in accordance with the custom of the President to distribute gifts of food and supplies that reach him, to the soldiers of the Republican Guard Brigade.

“The tea was sent to the Lebanese, particularly those affected by the explosion. Of course it wasn’t a present for those who don’t need it,” wrote Paula Yacoubian, a former MP who resigned after the blast which many blamed on official neglect. “Distributing the aid to your entourage is shameful,” she wrote.

 

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