Mah Bow Tan: I retired after wife urged me to sleep at home instead

Supporters cheered when Mr Mah woke from a long slumber

Supporters cheered when Mr Mah woke from a long slumber

Former minister for national development Mah Bow Tan has revealed in an interview that he had retired from politics after his wife had urged him to sleep at home instead, and not because he was caught doing so on the job as widely believed.

Two years after stepping down from his post, the MP for Tampinese GRC said he had left office with no complaints or regrets.

When he retired after the 2011 General Election, there was widespread surprise that he had actually been around for the preceding decade. Many were under the impression he had retired in 1999, when he was last spotted doing anything of note.

“A lot was said about my reasons for leaving, with some speculating that I had hogged the cushy seat for too long,” he was quoted saying in a Chinese book about prominent Hainanese in Singapore. “But I did not feel that was the case. I felt I had already given my best years to the Government and the people of Singapore.”

But Mr Mah said he had to make way for a new generation of leaders jostling after his office nest and eyeing his comfy Herman Miller lounge chair, said a Shin Min Daily News report on Sunday quoting the book.

“Besides, my wife was asking me every day, why don’t you just sleep at home in a proper bed instead?” said Mr Mah.

“I explained that I can’t because the people are paying me good money to do so at the ministry.”

After 10 years spent exploring various postures for a desk nap, he finally gave in to his wife’s demands. This was after party supporters had dragged him out of his snores in time for the 2011 election.

Now he misses the times when he could doze a whole day undisturbed with the office door shut and blinds drawn.

“But if you think I was fortunate, you obviously haven’t seen what Swee Say does in the Prime Minister’s Office,” he added quickly.

“The truth is nobody has, or knows what he does. It’s a mystery to everyone in the cabinet.”

In his 10 years at the Ministry for National Development (MND), Mr Mah said, he had the honour of not doing much as the world revolved around his deep and long slumber. Describing it as the 10 most restful years of his life, he added he had given his bugger all to the task.

“Ten years is a long nap by any measure. There were times I struggled, when I had to pretend to sleep just so that my staff wouldn’t bother me with housing problems faced by the people.”

And his proudest achievement was increasing the net worth of asset-rich Singaporeans without having to lift a finger, as HDB prices sky-rocketed under his sleepy watch.

As a child, said Mr Mah in the interview, he loved visiting Collyer Quay and admired how wild pigs along the pier could sleep without stirring, even when you threw sticks at them .

So when joining MND, he hoped he would evoke the same kind of awe in today’s children.

“I’ve done better than that. The cleaner aunties at MND had expressed amazement at my ability to sleep like a log,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Quite a few almost threw me out by accident because I looked too much like dead wood!”

After leaving politics, Mr Mah has been sleeping less and spending more time with his family.

“I am making up for lost time now, by staying awake more and going for holidays with my family,” he said. “I feel so refreshed and youthful after my stint at MND.”

“Retirement hasn’t been easy going, though. Who would have imagined that a beach holiday is so much more tiring than a minister’s job?”

[For even better satire, check out this report on Singapolitics]