A social media influencer has promised to return large sums of donations secured to assist families affected by the Easter Sunday attacks after she was accused on social media of fraud, in an incident now tagged as #IshiniGate.
Ishini Weerasinghe raised $82,882 through gofundme.com to assist the victims of the Easter attacks.
However, controversy arose after it was revealed on social media that the funds collected had not reached any family of the deadly bombings.
After being questioned on social media by several people for the receipts of the payments she claimed to have made, Weerasinghe revealed that she had made payments to Alpha Trust, a social arm of Foursquare Gospel Church.
Foursquare Gospel Church issued a statement on Facebook saying Weerasinghe donated a sum of Canadian $20,000 to the Alpha Trust in June 2019.
To adhere to her request, members of the Alpha Trust team embarked on the mission of communicating with the church in Batticaloa and other people on the ground, to ascertain the needs of those directly affected by the bombing.
However, after extensive interviews and fact-finding, they reported back to Ms. Weerasinghe that all victims who needed immediate, short term and long-term medical care were categorised and were being taken care of by Government organisations, relevant affected churches, International NGOs and Blue-chip companies who also came to the immediate assistance of the victims.
Hence, Alpha Trust requested to return the funds to her as per their policy of only utilising funds strictly for the specific purpose it was sent for by the donor.
In a statement issued yesterday, Weerasinghe said that she is in the process of returning all the funds to gofundme including what she claims to have been used to help some of the victims.
“We will be continuing to help the victims on our own account and social welfare efforts further onwards. The reason being, the cyber bullying, harassment and threats from the community recently from creating false accusations about the work that I have done with no proof, has become overwhelming for me and my family,” she said.
She also said that gofundme will release a statement regarding the funds being returned.(Easwaran Rutnam)