Two weeks ago, the Bahamas' government-owned telephone utility, BaTelCo, published and distributed its new phone book for 2001, to glowing praise from local media. The phone company had exactly one day to bask in its glory before management was forced to recall the entire $1 million print run of more than 175,000 phone books. This wasn't just a printing error. On the cover design of each directory, the address of a pornographic Web site was clearly legible.
The mistake was not only costly; it's turned into the Bahamas' biggest political scandal, as rival parties point fingers and shout about moral decay and Christian values.
The controversy was lost on overworked telephone company employees, who spent a sleepless weekend with black markers, crossing out the X-rated URL on each and every phone book. The directories were then redistributed to citizens, who had to wait in line outside BaTelCo offices to receive the blacked-out version.
"This makes no sense," 28-year-old Veronica Evans told the Associated Press while waiting to pick up her porn-free phone book. "It didn't make sense recalling them. We all know about the site."
Because BaTelCo is operated by the Free National Movement (FNM) administration, the opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has made every attempt to use the offensive and indecent mistake against its rival, and issued a press release headlined "Response to Sex on the Brain."
"We in the Progressive Liberal Party are shocked that the FNM government and its appointees at BaTelCo would have been so negligent and irresponsible in their governance to allow this to happen, particularly at a time when our society faces the massive challenges of teenage pregnancies and the scourge of AIDS," PLP national chairman Bradley Roberts foamed to the Bahama Journal.
The PLP claimed that through the printing of a porn Web address on a telephone book, the FNM regime is "clearly promoting the negative influences that promote promiscuity and weaken the social fabric of our nation."
Roberts concluded his tirade by saying, "We urge all Bahamians to commence this new millennium by recommitting to the traditional Christian values that have nurtured and sustained us in our historic march to freedom and nationhood."
BaTelCo promises an investigation to uncover the source of what surely is an X-rated prank. Company president Michael Symonette assured Bahamians that the corporation "did not intend to offend the sensitivities of the Bahamian public and apologizes for any inconvenience or distress caused by this unfortunate incident."