BEIRUT: So you’re the president of a country with a ruling elite widely held to be inept and corrupt, the economy is collapsing, and swaths of your capital city have been reduced to rubble by a devastating explosion.
It must be tempting just to sit down and have a nice cup of tea. But President Michel Aoun of Lebanon can’t even do that without getting into hot water.
The trouble started brewing when the president's office published a photo last month of Aoun receiving the Sri Lankan ambassador, who said Colombo had “donated 1,675 kilos of Ceylon tea to those affected by the Beirut blast.”
All well and good. The beleaguered residents of Gemmayze may have no homes, but at least they can be refreshed.
On Wednesday, however, it emerged that Aoun had written to Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa thanking him for the gift, which “was distributed to the families of the soldiers in the Presidential Guard Brigade.”
And that’s when it all boiled over. Aoun has a new social media hashtag — #TeaThief — and his conduct has been described as shameful, although admittedly not for the first time.
“The tea was sent to the Lebanese, particularly those affected by the explosion,” said independent MP Paula Yacoubian. “Of course it wasn't a present for those who don't need it. Distributing the aid to your entourage is shameful.”
الشاي ارسل الى اللبنانيين بخاصة المتضررين من انفجاركم وطبعا لم يكن هدية لمن لا يحتاجها
توزيع المساعدات على حاشيتك معيب #لبنان ينحدر مع عهدكم كما لم يفعل حتى في زمن الاقتتال في عهدكم السابق https://t.co/XlweMGdYJu
— بولا يعقوبيان (@PaulaYacoubian) September 8, 2020
One Lebanese Twitter user wrote: “Corruption in Lebanon continues. This government has 0 percent chance of changing.”
Corruption in Lebanon continues. That government has 0% chance of changing. 100% wrong.
— Sunshine & Lollipops (@ljhinco) September 9, 2020