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Another Malaysian loses last bid to escape the gallows in Singapore

Pannir Selvam Pranthaman today lost his bid for a certificate of substantive assistance, which would have given him a chance of commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment.

Our Regional Correspondent
2 minute read
Pannir Selvam Pranthaman has been on death row in Singapore since 2017.
Pannir Selvam Pranthaman has been on death row in Singapore since 2017.

A Malaysian prisoner on death row in Singapore has lost his final legal bid to avoid the gallows, as controversy continues over another Malaysian whose fight to escape the death penalty in the city-state has become the subject of international scrutiny.

Pannir Selvam Pranthaman’s lawyer, Too Xing Ji, said the Singapore Court of Appeal today rejected Pannir’s bid to commute the death sentence handed to him four years ago.

Pannir had argued that he should receive a certificate of substantive assistance under Section 33B of the republic’s Misuse of Drugs Act.

The argument for the certificate, which would have given Pannir a chance of commuting his sentence to life imprisonment, was based on the fact that he had given the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) information which led to the arrest of another drug trafficker.

But Too said the attorney-general had filed further affidavits after the oral hearing on March 9, saying that while the information given was true, it was not useful as the CNB was already aware of it.

“After hearing further submissions, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal with brief oral grounds,” Too said.

“In short, they said that the statute required that the information had to be used. Because the CNB had said on affidavit that they did not use Pannir’s information, he would not qualify for the certificate.”

Pannir was found guilty of being a drug courier and sentenced to death in 2017.

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.

He received a stay of execution in 2019, 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.

He had written two songs from Changi prison, joining hands with popular local names in fighting against the death penalty.

His first song, “Arah Tuju”, was performed by singer Santesh Kumar, best known for his 2014 Malay single “Amalina”.

His second song, “Bukan Sekadar Hikayat”, sung by local Indian rapper Samson Thomas, was released in September.

Today’s ruling comes hot on the heels of reports that a new date for appeal has been set for Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, another Malaysian prisoner on death row in Singapore.

According to UK-based legal group Reprieve, the appeal had been scheduled for Nov 30 following the stay of execution granted after Nagaenthran’s Covid-19 diagnosis just before a last-ditch attempt in court to stop his execution on Nov 10.

This comes amid concerns over the mental health of Nagaenthran, who had already been diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.

Rights groups had mounted a campaign seeking to save his life, with dozens of civil society activists gathering outside the Malaysian Parliament on Nov 3 to highlight his case to MPs.

His case also gained the attention of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, both of whom wrote to the Singapore authorities asking for leniency towards Nagaenthran.

Others including British aviation magnate Richard Branson have asked for Singapore to grant Nagaenthran a pardon.