THE peaceful atmosphere of the Motuan villages of Porebada, Boera, Papa and Lealea has in recent times been broken by the sound of heavy machinery.
Huge earth-moving machinery belonging to PNG LNG contractor Curtain Bros has been tearing strips out of the hillsides at the spot referred to as Portion 152 or the Petroleum Park.
Last weekend, another sound was heard and because of it, the sound of machinery has died down and the work halted temporarily.
It was the angry and murderous sound of guns going off.
In the end, five men from Porebada were dead, some homes burnt and the entire village of Boera abandoned after the villagers fled in fear of retaliation.
Porebada and Boera villages locked horns in a bloody conflict over a disputed portion of land where the LNG work is being carried out.
This is what you normally read about in the highly volatile and tribal-fight-prone Highlands provinces, hardly ever in coastal provinces and particularly among Motuan villages.
What happened last weekend has shattered the idyllic peace-loving Motuan image and introduced the ugly spectre of violence and more particularly violence perpetrated by guns.
Things will never be the same again.
The LNG project has claimed its first lives, not in some Southern Highlands village where such an event is predictable, but on the edge of the capital city.
While the project itself is not responsible for the events of last week, the fight resulted from a dispute over a portion of land in the Portion 152 area between Porebada and Boera.
The land which nobody really bothered about in the past is now prime territory. Ownership also confers big money privileges, something that the two villages have never in the past had occasion to argue over, but which is now going to be a regular agenda every slow kilometre of land at Portion 152.
To our mind, there should never be any argument over what piece of land belongs to whom. The project is huge. It has the capacity to make everyone of Porebada and Boera sufficiently well off for the balance of their lives with adequate reserves to put away for future generations.
All the leadership has to do is to gather the people of the two villages and organise them into corporate entities with equal privileges for all.
This is where people like former deputy prime minister, Sir Moi Avei, can be useful. Indeed, he ought to have been active in this regard because more than any other leader, Sir Moi has known about this project since its inception.
Indeed, it was Sir Moi who suggested and offered Portion 152 as the site for the Petroleum Park when the idea first came up. He was then minister for petroleum and energy.
The project has the capacity to relocate the two villages if need be. It can build new homes for every family in the two villages if need be. This is the size of the project.
Nobody need die in senseless quarrels over little portions of land when the capacity is there for everybody to be well looked after.
But this will mean good leadership, both at the national, provincial and local levels. This will mean organising the people so that whatever benefits are derived from the project are shared equitably and also invested in sustainable projects for the long term.
If the leaders are looking out for themselves and trying to line their own pockets, then the violence we have seen last weekend can only be the beginning and that a nasty and bloody feud between the villages might even affect the future of the project itself.
We hope that quick action by the leaders since the incident and in the days to come will restore some semblance of balance and peaceful co-existence between the peoples of the two villages.
It really is sad and to be regretted that this nasty business has come up but it shows what can happen, even among peace-loving people, when big money and big business intrude in an area.