Malaysian on Singapore's death row sees hope with new song launch

Alyaa Alhadjri
·2-min read
Malaysian on Singapore's death row sees hope with new song launch
Malaysian on Singapore's death row sees hope with new song launch

A Malaysian on death row in Singapore is sending a message of peace and love from behind bars through his song lyrics, seeking forgiveness and mercy for himself and others in a similar position.

The song Arah Tuju, which was written by P Pannir Selvam, who has spent seven years in Changi prison for trafficking 51.84g of diamorphine, was officially launched today with support from anti-death penalty advocates.

Malaysian on death row in Singapore P Pannir Selvam
Malaysian on death row in Singapore P Pannir Selvam

Pannir was convicted on June 27, 2017, by the Singapore High Court, and initially scheduled for execution on May 24 last year.

Since then, legal processes are ongoing to challenge the dismissal of his clemency application.

Produced by NGO Sebaran Kasih, Malaysian artist Shantesh Kumar was chosen to sing and rap Pannir's lyrics, targeting youths with a message to avoid being involved in situations that could lead to being on death row.

Singer Shantesh Kumar
Singer Shantesh Kumar

"I might be asked why I agreed to take on this project, but the main idea is to spread a message," said Shantesh during a press conference after the launch of the song and music video in Kuala Lumpur today.

"Every prisoner has a name, has a family and their own stories to tell.

“To label all of them as just criminals, and as drug traffickers, would be grossly unfair," he added.

The song and music video are also supported by Amnesty-International Malaysia (AI-M) and Lawyers for Liberty.

Former MACC chief Latheefa Koya, who is also Lawyers for Liberty's co-founder, was featured in the video, together with AI-M research consultant Brian Yap.

Pannir's sister, P Angelia, who founded Sebaran Kasih, an NGO assisting vulnerable families, said her brother was greatly encouraged by the production of the song which started last August.

P Pannir Selvam's sister P Angelia
P Pannir Selvam's sister P Angelia

She said Pannir has also written other songs in English and Tamil in his time behind bars.

"He wants to fully utilise his time, to send the message to other Malaysians, so as to not fall into the same trap," said Angelia who was accompanied by her parents, siblings and nephews.

Meanwhile, Yap said studies conducted by AI-M on Malaysia's death penalty laws have revealed numerous violations to the right of a fair trial, adding that defendants have been left vulnerable to the death penalty.

Citing government statistics, he said there are currently 1,324 individuals on Malaysia's death row, of whom 918 were drug offenders.

Malaysia still maintains death row for 33 offences, with 12 carrying mandatory sentences, but has since imposed a moratorium on executions.