A formal request has been placed with Lae Police to investigate death threats made against the Chief Executive of the Lae City Authority (LCA), Neil Ellery.
The threats were sent by 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, said at 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 as to why the threats were issued, he says the work done by the authority to clamp down on illegal spending and wastage is 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. 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, 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 organization 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 who 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 organization being propped up by grants from the Morobe Provincial Government and DSIP 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.”