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Inmate pens musical tribute to country from death row in Singapore

This is the second song written by Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, who is facing execution for a drug trafficking conviction.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
Local rapper Samson Thomas (left), popularly known as Saint TFC, works in the recording studio with Angelia Pranthaman (right), Pannir Selvam Pranthaman's sister and president of Sebaran Kasih, and Sebaran Kasih vice-president Pastor Prince Jon (centre).
Local rapper Samson Thomas (left), popularly known as Saint TFC, works in the recording studio with Angelia Pranthaman (right), Pannir Selvam Pranthaman's sister and president of Sebaran Kasih, and Sebaran Kasih vice-president Pastor Prince Jon (centre).

A Malaysian prisoner on death row in Singapore has composed a song paying tribute to those who fought and made sacrifices for the country, his second since being placed behind bars seven years ago.

This is the second song composed by Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, who was handed the death sentence in 2017 for carrying drugs into the island republic.

His first song, “Arah Tuju”, sung by Santesh Kumar, was released in April this year. His latest composition, “Bukan Sekadar Hikayat”, will be sung by local Indian rapper Samson Thomas, popularly known as Saint TFC.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Pannir’s sister Angelia Pranthaman said this was his way of showing his appreciation for the country despite being in prison and awaiting execution.

“Definitely we will have the ‘arah tuju’ on where he is heading,” she said on its continuation from the first song.

Angelia Pranthaman speaks to MalaysiaNow about her brother and his latest song which comes from behind bars.

Angelia, who is president of NGO Sebaran Kasih, said Pannir wrote the lyrics for “Bukan Sekadar Hikayat” in 2019.

She then worked with him through phone calls and emails, in which he had asked for Thomas to provide the vocals for the song, saying he had “the right voice” to advocate the issue.

Pannir was jailed in Singapore’s Changi prison for trafficking in 51.84g of diamorphine and sentenced to death by the city-state’s High Court.

On May 16, 2019, the prison issued an execution notice for May 24. Pannir applied to defer his execution and the republic’s Court of Appeal suspended it at the eleventh hour to allow him time for a clemency challenge.

Pannir’s first song had highlighted the plight of death row inmates and called for forgiveness and mercy.

Angelia said “Arah Tuju” had succeeded in creating greater awareness about the issue.

“We received messages from many people asking us to continue this good work, and we believe creating awareness and having these kinds of events will eventually lead to the abolishment of the death penalty in Malaysia,” she said, adding that “Arah Tuju” would be a benchmark for “Bukan Sekadar Hikayat” in Malaysia.

“Arah Tuju” has so far gained more than 27,000 views on YouTube.

Rapper Samson Thomas works on Pannir Selvam’s song, ‘Bukan Sekadar Hikayat’.

Thomas, who composed the music and rhythm for “Bukan Sekadar Hikayat”, said it was an honour to work on the project.

“I’ve always loved the country,” he said. “To see someone putting my thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper made me feel like I belonged. It made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself.”

It took him and another composer three weeks to complete the melody and music for “Bukan Sekadar Hikayat”.

While the tone was dark, he said, it expressed Pannir’s emotions. He added that the lyrics, which he adjusted in the chorus and second verse, were “beautiful” and “came from a very real place”.

“This song is not only about a saga that is Malaysia,” he said.

“It is a representation of how people deserve a second chance. It is a representation of how correction is very important. When a child falls, you don’t punish the child, you tell the child to walk properly.”

This will be the second song in Malay for Thomas, who has 43 songs to his name. His first, “Aku Tak Akan Lupa”, was released last year.

“Bukan Sekadar Hikayat” will be released in a virtual event at 8pm on Sept 13, in collaboration with NGO Lawyers for Liberty and rights group Amnesty International.

It will also be made available on Sebaran Kasih’s Facebook page on the launch date.

A light moment in the studio with Angelia Pranthaman, Samson Thomas and Pastor Prince Jon.

Sebaran Kasih vice-president Pastor Prince Jon urged Malaysians to listen to the song once it is released.

“We do this not for fame or money. We have nothing to gain. What we want is to share about love and forgiveness,” he said, adding that the organisation is working on a third song, “Di Sebalik Pintu Besi”.

Angelia, meanwhile, remains ever mindful of her brother on death row in Singapore.

“Pannir loves Malaysia,” she said. “He wants to go back. He is still unsatisfied that he will be facing death in Singapore. He wants to die here.

“He has told me how he always remembers the old times of waving flags and watching the Merdeka parade.”