Just over a month ahead of the 2017 staging of the Miss Jamaica World pageant, one of its finalists has been booted from the competition amidst controversy stemming from a high-profile criminal case she was previously implicated in.
The inclusion of Shaneke Williams, named one of the 16 MJW finalists on August 12, drew much ire from the public at large considering she had been charged with aiding and abetting rape and sexual touching in a 2013 rape case against former Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) councillor, Don Creary. Though charges were dropped this past March after the complainant in the matter, a 15-year-old, indicated she did not wish to pursue the case, Williams’ past was brought into question after word emerged she had entered Miss Jamaica World.
On Tuesday, after meeting with Williams, Miss Jamaica World franchise holder, Mickey Haughton-James, confirmed in a statement that the 24-year-old has been dropped from the competition after it was determined she did not meet the criteria required to be a contestant in the pageant. He also intimated that, despite Williams’ claims that she gave organizers full disclosure regarding her situation, he nor any team member was informed of her past.
Haughton-James’ statement read in part, “Anyone accused of the actions that Miss Williams was accused of and was before the nation’s court for a criminal offense in the same year as the staging of the pageant would obviously face exclusion from the pageant. There is no investigative arm to the Miss Jamaica World Pageant and traditionally, prospective contestants are allowed to hand in Entry Forms on the day that the “Finalists” are to be selected. My understanding is that Miss Williams Entry Form was handed in on that last day. I was totally unaware that the Shaneke Williams who was in the line-up of contestants was involved in any criminal trial or any type of scandal whatsoever. To the best of my knowledge neither did any of the other judges.”
“I had a very long meeting with Shaneke yesterday, Tuesday August 15 I found her to be a bright young lady albeit maybe with some ‘issues’ which should not be surprising considering her recent past. I made the point that while she may see the Miss Jamaica World Pageant as a platform to make a statement and redeem her reputation, that would be selfish if it was going to be at the expense of her fellow contestants, sponsors, past winners and contestants and the pageant itself.” it continued.
“I told her that she should have come in to see me and identify herself and her situation before entering. She did not mention then that she had been in dialog with anyone on the team. I handed her a letter explaining our reasons for refusing her entry and she seemed in full agreement and requested the opportunity to withdraw voluntarily. I agreed and gave her a timeline in which to submit the letter. The timeline has not been met but the letter will still be accepted if and when it comes.”
Haughton-James also made it clear that neither he or his team see Williams as a criminal or a bad person, but reinforced that her situation risked bringing the pageant into disrepute.
Williams said in an interview with the Jamaica STAR on Tuesday that she intended to push on despite the abundance of negative comments – or what she termed as abuse and cyber-bullying – saying she had a story to tell and that Miss Jamaica World was an ideal place to share her side of the story, serving as an inspiration to others. Many public figures objected to her inclusion, including Miss World 1993 and current Member of Parliament, Lisa Hanna.
She has yet to comment on the franchise holder’s decision.