Tampines GRC MPs Mah Bow Tan, Irene Ng to step down

Mr Mah Bow Tan making the announcement at the Tampines East National Day Dinner.
Mr Mah Bow Tan making the announcement at the Tampines East National Day Dinner.ST PHOTO: LIM YAN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Two veteran Tampines GRC MPs will step down to make way for new blood at the general election.

They are former minister Mah Bow Tan, who has been an MP since 1988, and Ms Irene Ng, who has been an MP since 2001. Both announced their retirement from politics on Friday at separate constituency events.

Mr Mah, 66, told residents of his Tampines East ward over a National Day dinner that his "most wonderful memory" was seeing many of them grow up. He has been an MP in Tampines for 27 years.

"I've seen you from crying babies to mature, confident young men and women and finally I've seen some of you become proud parents, with babies of your own," he said. "But as we watch our children grow, we ourselves we are also growing older."

A former Colombo Plan Scholar and President's Scholar, Mr Mah has handled many demanding portfolios in his 20 years as a minister.


As Minister for Communications from 1991 to 1999, he oversaw the implementation of the controversial Certificate of Entitlement (COE) and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) schemes to control the car population and reduce road congestion.

He was also concurrently Environment Minister between 1993 and 1995, and had been Minister of State for Trade and Industry before that, in 1990 and 1991.

But it is as Minister for National Development - a post he held from 1999 to 2011 - that he is most widely known to most Singaporeans.

Mr Mah stepped down from the Cabinet following the 2011 elections, during which the price of public housing was a major hot-button issue.

Discontent over the then-relentless rise in home prices was seen to have cost the PAP team a convincing win in Tampines GRC last election: the PAP team pulled in 57.2 per cent of votes against a largely-unknown team from the National Solidarity Party, a 11.2 per cent vote swing against the incumbents.

While he declined to talk about succession, potential new candidate Ms Cheng Li Hui, 38, was also present at the dinner.

Ms Cheng is deputy chief executive of engineering, process and construction services company Hai Leck Holdings. She was made vice-chairman of the Citizen Consultative Committee in Tampines East earlier this year, after having understudied Sembawang GRC MPs Ellen Lee and Vikram Nair, before that.

"My last duty and responsibility is to help to look for my replacement, and to guide him, or her," said Mr Mah. 

"I cannot say who he or she is, or will be, but what I can say is that the person selected will be passionate about serving, will have the energy to serve, and will have a heart to serve."

Ms Cheng declined to speak with the media.

Earlier in the day, three-term MP for Tampines GRC Irene Ng, 51, also announced that she will be stepping down.

Ms Ng, who is MP for the Tampines Changkat ward, said she had asked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong some time last year if she could step down to make way for new blood.

"It was not an easy decision to make as I have come to be very close to this community, and all of you have become like family," she said in a speech during a National Day Family Carnival.

Ms Ng, who came to office in 2001, added that it was a "joy and honour" to have served, and that she was proud to belong to a political party that stands for important values such as social justice, multi-racial unity and equality of opportunity for all.

"I also believe in one of the PAP's key tenets - leadership renewal - and fully support this," she said.

Ms Ng has been widely tipped to be succeeded by Mr Desmond Choo, who is deputy director at the National Trades Union Congress.

Mr Choo previously contested against the Workers' Party's Yaw Shin Leong in Hougang in the 2011 General Election, and in the Hougang by-election a year later.

He was last year named the second adviser to grassroots organisations in Tampines East - a ward currently helmed by Mr Mah Bow Tan. In February, Mr Choo took up the same position in Tampines Changkat, under Ms Ng.

He did not attend Friday's event.

Fellow Tampines GRC MP and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was a special guest at the community event, said that Ms Ng had served Tampines with distinction, and was also "a very fierce MP" in Parliament.

One of the things that she had pushed for very passionately was to make Tampines the first cycling town in Singapore, he added.

"So now, Tampines has a park connector, has a cycling network, and we probably have the most number of bicycles per head in the whole of Singapore," he said.

"It is a legacy that Irene has built for all of us, and we will build on that and we will make Tampines an even better cycling town."