Monday, October 26, 2020

Ex-MACC boss joins hands with singer Santesh for song written by death row inmate

The song was written to highlight what prisoners experience while awaiting execution.

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Former top graft buster Latheefa Koya has joined hands with Santesh Kumar – best known for his 2014 Malay single “Amalina” which raked in 33 million views on YouTube – in a new song decrying the death penalty.

The song is written by Pannir Selvam Pranthanam, a Malaysian in Singapore who has been fighting to quash the death sentence passed down on him three years ago. It is part of a campaign by his family members and human rights activists to abolish the death penalty.

In 2017, a Singapore court found Pannir, who is a musician himself, guilty of being a drug courier and sentenced him to death. Pannir, 33, has been in prison since then.

He was convicted on June 27, 2017 by the Singapore High Court of trafficking in 51.84g of diamorphine at the Woodlands Checkpoint in 2014.

Last year, he got a stay of execution just hours before he was scheduled to be put to death on May 24, enabling him to dispute the Singapore president’s refusal to challenge the clemency process.

Pannir’s plight is shared by scores of prisoners awaiting execution at Changi Prison, the city-state’s sole jail complex.

In Malaysia, his case is closely followed by Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), a rights group which has been campaigning to abolish the death penalty in Malaysia.

Latheefa, who co-founded LFL prior to her appointment to head the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, said she was excited when told that Pannir himself had written a song to help in the campaign.

“I felt it was a very good opportunity,” she told MalaysiaNow when met at Santesh’s studio in Shah Alam.

Singer Santesh Kumar speaks in an interview with MalaysiaNow at his studio in Shah Alam.

She said collaborating with a popular name like Santesh would help drive home the need to abolish the death penalty more effectively, specifically in cases involving Malaysians in Singapore.

Pannir’s plight is shared by scores of prisoners awaiting execution at Changi Prison, the city-state’s sole jail complex.

Amnesty International reports that 400 executions have been performed in Singapore since 1991, with 13 taking place in 2018.

“There is no evidence to show that the death penalty is a deterrent to committing crime,” Latheefa said. “This is our chance to promote the campaign to abolish the death penalty.”

Written in jail

Santesh’s song, “Arah Tuju”, is a mix of pop and rap. Pannir wrote the lyrics to highlight the challenges faced by prisoners and what they experience while awaiting their execution.

In July last year, Pannir passed the handwritten lyrics to his sister Angelia Pranthaman, who wasted no time finding the resources to produce the current album.

Pannir Selvam Pranthanam’s sister, Angelia.

Angelia is confident that “Hala Tuju” and the seven other songs in the special album will be a hit.

“I think it will attract attention from the public. I feel it will be well received because firstly, we are releasing a music album with lyrics written by a death row prisoner,” she said.

“And without doubt, we have the top fan base singer to sing this song.”

For Santesh, his involvement in the project may come across as controversial.

“I am not bothered by what people want to say. This comes from my heart,” he said.

Angelia meanwhile welcomes contributions to help fund her family’s campaign for her brother’s release, as well as to highlight the plight of prisoners on death row.

Those interested can contact her at 010-5605087, or visit savepannir.info or the “Save Pannir” Facebook page.

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