Former Health Minister, Dr George Norton, for the first time since news broke that he was demoted from his position as Minister of the Public Health Ministry, told Inews earlier today that he is not a failure.
Norton was demoted from the post of Senior Minister of Public Health to the junior Minister of Social Cohesion under Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.
According to the Former Health Minister, this announcement was dropped suddenly on him by the Government and as such, he will now be entering a field that is very foreign to him.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know anything about the Ministry. It’s not only new to me but to everyone,” he said.
Norton further stated that “all I know in my life is Health Care. That’s my expertise, my forte.”
The now junior Minister told this online publication that the only reason provided to him from his demotion is that the Government was trying to protect him from the “Opposition and the media.”
“They said the kind of attack I was getting was not permitting me to perform,” he explained.
However, Norton contended that any attack he was getting from the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) members and the media only made him ‘stronger than ever’.
“I was even more prepared. I’m not a failure. I was doing a great job and worked beyond the call of duty across the country!” said the seemingly distraught Norton.
Taking Norton’s position in the Health Ministry will be Volda Lawrence, former Minister of Social Protection, while Amna Ally who was heading Social Cohesion will be bumped up as the new Minister of Social Protection.
Norton’s exodus from Public Health at the hands of the President was occasioned, for the greater part, by the series of controversies surrounding his handling of the Ministry, paramount being the procurement of drugs under his watch.
His most recent debacle was his approval to rent a renovated bottom house on Sussex Street to store “drugs” at a cost of $12.5M per month ($150M a year) to businessman Larry Singh, (Linden Holdings Inc.) a known associate of the incumbent, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), government.
Norton was forced to issue an apology for misleading the National Assembly over the same drug bond issue and was later hauled before the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges for the statements he made.
When questioned in the National Assembly to explain how Singh became aware of Government’s need for the storage bond, Norton could not answer. He however, maintained that the decision to rent the facility from Singh at a cost of $12.5M monthly was taken at the level of Cabinet.
PPP Opposition Leader Dr Bharat Jagdeo had long since contended that the entire drug bond affair went ‘beyond the Health Minister.’
Jagdeo had articulated that the contract that had been entered into between the Public Health Ministry and Linden Holding Inc, “is not about Norton…Norton was directed to initiate that”.
He had noted that Government spokespersons to date were yet to tell the nation how Dr Norton knew about the availability of the Sussex Street bond.
Linden Holding Inc, has its registered office in Middle Street, Georgetown, in the same building that housed the Sidewalk Café which is owned by Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes and its bond is located at Lot 69 Sussex Street.
“They haven’t answered that question, but Norton was directed by members of that Cabinet to negotiate this deal with this individual (Larry Singh) and they all knew about it when it went to the Parliament,” the Opposition Leader claimed.
The Opposition Leader was firm in his supposition when he had said that “they are throwing Norton under the bus”.