Saturday, January 15, 2022

An appeal on behalf of Pannir Selvam

Local artist Santesh Kumar calls for an end to the death penalty.

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My heart and mind go out to Pannir Selvam, a Malaysian in Changi prison, Singapore, who is fighting the death penalty. I was very surprised to read the news that Pannir had lost the appeal.

Following the news, I understand that Pannir was denied a certificate of substantive assistance, even though he cooperated with the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) of Singapore, giving all the details that he possibly knew. Personally, I feel Pannir should be given a new trial. The death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime.

As a Malaysian artist, I feel responsible for talking on behalf of Pannir as I have worked on his songs together with the NGO Sebaran Kasih. Pannir is a passionate songwriter. I think that we, as artists, and the music industry as a whole have a particular moral obligation to get involved and act as a platform to raise awareness on this serious issue that touches on a person’s right to live.

The most barbaric condition of being on death row is the horrible feeling of uncertainty when one is under sentence of execution but doesn’t know whether or when the sentence will be carried out. This is something difficult to digest. Pannir’s uncertainty over the time of his execution is creating a physical and mental pain amounting to add his death sentence.

Pannir’s life is exactly like the song “Arah Tuju”. Everybody has their destiny in life and Pannir’s destiny is to fight with death.

Pannir and other death row prisoners are generally isolated from other prisoners, excluded from all the prison programmes, and sharply restricted in terms of visitation and exercise, spending as many as 23 hours a day alone in their cells.

If you are in a position to support the abolishment of the death penalty in the country, then please, use your voice for the voiceless. For the defenseless, for the innocent, and for those that are convicted of minor drug offenses and charged with the death penalty.

According to the website, in 2009, the president of Kenya commuted the death sentences of all of the country’s death row prisoners, more than 4,000 of them, citing that the wait to face execution and death as “undue mental anguish and suffering.” This is exactly what has happened to Nagenthiren, another Malaysian on death row in Changi prison.

From the Dewan Rakyat, when Nazri Aziz, representing Barisan Nasional spoke, he mentioned that there are about 918 inmates on death row following conviction under Section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drug Act. Of these, 472 are Malaysians and 446 are foreigners.

Looking at what the Kenya government has done, I know that Malaysia can do the same for these people as well because regardless of how long the wait is on death row, the death penalty itself is a violation of human rights.

To lawmakers, members of the judiciary, and all persons in authority, my humblest and sincerest request to you is to please give Pannir Selvam a second chance to live. He has been working hard from a dark place, death row in prison, to produce art for advocating and creating awareness for the abolishment of the death penalty. Please at least re-consider his case and commute his death sentence.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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