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Government Picking Winners

I am offended that the Ministry of Tourism, JAMPRO and apparently, the Jamaica Tourist
Board are all partnering with the new Miss Universe Franchise holder, a non-Jamaican with an unproven track record. Does this mean that “Celebrate Jamaica” monetary contribution will be going to an unproven organization with no track record? My efforts to get support for the Miss Jamaica World Pageant with the present Minister of Tourism and the JTB have all fallen on deaf ears. This is despite Spartan’s sterling performance with the staging of MJW for a period of more than 30 years and our outstanding record of success at the Miss World Pageant.

In 1978 the Miss Universe Organization wrote to me offering me the Miss Universe Franchise for Jamaica. I replied that in the previous year we had withdrawn our representative (Sandra Kong) from the Miss World Contest in protest over the participation of Apartheid South Africa in the contest and that we were not prepared to participate in the Miss Universe Pageant as long as Apartheid South Africa was included. Their response was quick and definitive, they had no intention of severing their ties with South Africa as Miss Universe was a cultural event and was in no way connected to politics. They were true to their word and Apartheid South Africa was represented at Miss Universe every year right up to the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the end of Apartheid in South Africa. I have no reason to believe that this organization has changed its stripes under Donald Trump. South Africa was excluded from the Miss World Contest in 1978, the year after we withdrew Sandra Kong.

Over the years since 1976, the year that Spartan was offered and accepted the Miss World Franchise, Julia Morley and her family have become very close to Spartan and in particular, to Jamaica. On many occasions she brought the reigning Miss World to Jamaica to participate in the popular “Miss World Charity Fashion Show” proceeds of which went to charities identified by then Governor General and patron of the shows, the Hon. Sir Florizel Glasspole. On one occasion she collaborated with Variety Clubs International and Air Jamaica to provide free heart surgery for a patient at the Bustamante Hospital for Children (Julia is now President of Variety Clubs International). Jamaica has benefitted tremendously through participating in the Miss World Contest, winning the event on three occasions and prominently, placing in the Top 5 numerous times, as recently as 2006 when Sara Lawrence was placed fourth.

In the 1980’s Carole Guntley, as Director of Tourism, utilized the services of the reigning MJW at no charge to the JTB. The ladies were happy to give of their services as it gave them a feeling of purpose – a chance to serve their country. We were unable to bring the PNP government on board during their 18-year tenure but at least they were consistent – neither favouring MJW nor MJU.

It’s not the role of a government to pick winners & losers. Such support, if not given equally to Miss Jamaica World, could possibly tip the balance in favour of Miss Jamaica Universe replacing Miss Jamaica World as the No 1 pageant in Jamaica, in its first year and under a new franchise holder. Spartan has been subsidizing the Miss Jamaica World Pageant to the tune of over $1m per year for many years. If given the minimal support by the government as requested by Spartan, the Pageant may have attracted major sponsors. This potentially, would have given Spartan the opportunity to set up gyms in under-privileged communities while at the same time, attracting even wider participation by Jamaica’s beautiful and talented young women and more glory and acclaim on the world’s stage.

I suspect outdated ideology in the previous administration and old fashioned “licky-licky” politics in the current one. I find both unacceptable but the latter particularly offensive.

M. Haughton-James
Franchise Holder
Miss Jamaica World

December 5, 2011