PNG police investigate cellphone death threats against Lae city chief

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Neil Ellery
Lae City chief executive Neil Ellery ... “I think they’ve mistaken me for a foreigner.” Image: EMTV News

By Jeremy Mogi in Lae

Papua New Guinea police are investigating death threats against Lae City Authorit chief executive Neil Ellery.

The threats were sent by cellphone text message two days ago.

The sender told Ellery that he would be shot and that they knew where he lived.  A second text message issued a separate  threat to Ellery’s wife.

“I think they’ve mistaken me for a foreigner,” Ellery, whose father is a New Zealander, told a brief press conference yesterday.

“My mother is a Simbu woman from Gena and I was born in Simbu. Maybe they thought I would get scared and leave my country.”

While Neil Ellery has not given details about why the threats were issued, he said the work done by the authority to clamp down on illegal spending and wastage was understood to have triggered this latest  death threat.

“If these threats are coming through, it means I am doing my job. It means I am affecting the corrupt ‘kaikai man’ right at the core now,” he said.

No stranger to controversy
“We’ve closed off every possible avenue where they can steal money from the Lae City Council and we are making sure the services will be delivered back into the city.”

Neil Ellery is no stranger to controversy and threats.

Since taking office, as interim CEO of the newly established Lae City Authority (LCA), he and his staff have been physically threatened several times.

Much of the dissatisfaction has been triggered by his efforts to transfer administrative, financial and municipal functions from the Lae City Council and to rid the organisation of widespread corruption.

In 2018, when the Lae City Authority took control of the Lae Market, police were called in to remove several casual staff as well as the former management which never accounted for revenue generated over 20 years from the market.

This followed an investigation in 2017 which showed how millions of kina were being stolen by corrupt officials in the Lae City Council.

The spending included hire cars, funeral costs and ghost names on the payroll.

The theft left the Lae City Council in a state of bankruptcy with the organisation being propped up by grants from the Morobe Provincial Government and funds from the Lae District.

“Even though I know who you are, I need evidence. To threaten me is the work of the devil. To threaten my wife is the work of a coward.”

Lae Police Metropolitan Superintendent Chris Kunyanban has also issued a strong warning against cyber threats.

He has since instructed officers to begin working on the investigation.

“I want to make a public statement here…making threats by SMS, Whatsapp or Facebook carries heavy penalties. We are now working to track the numbers and have that culprit arrested.”

EMTV News items are republished by the Pacific Media Centre with permission.

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