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Lessons that life on Death Row has taught a Malaysian
Published on: Sunday, November 03, 2019
By: Pannir Selvam Pranthanam

Currently, I have requested my lawyer to write to the Attorney-General’s office to help me secure a Certificate of Substantive Assistance under Section 33(b) of the Misuse of Drug Act (Cap 185) Certificate of Co-operation.

I will also be instructing my lawyers to refer me for psychiatrist evaluation to satisfy the requirement of Section 33b (1)(b) of the Misuse of Drug Act (Cap 185). I humbly beg to your Excellency to delay the execution of my sentence as it is pending the outcome of the ongoing Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) investigation and the psychiatrist evaluation.

When I was in prison, I realised the harm and destruction drug abuse causes to families, communities, society and humanity as whole. I’ve failed to realise this truth in the years of my freedom, and had only gained this realisation when I was within a cell of 4 brick-walls for 4 years.

I understand now, that nothing triumphs and matters more than the value of a life and living, love, family, freedom, moral and civic responsibility as human beings.

I have learned that even in our most dire situation, we can still reach out to others, to ease their burden and lift them up so that they will be comforted with the fact that they are not alone in their sufferings and struggles that they face. We must offer help to the broken, and offer hope to the hopeless.

If we, inmates in death row, were given a chance, we would share our life stories to the younger generation so that we could all stand united together with them against the abuse and misuse of drugs. 

Often times, the media only seeks to portray stories of positivity and successes, but chooses to side-line issues that are obviously not positive nor pleasant to hear like ours. We can write every week if we were given a small column in the newspaper, and also reach out to other various outlets such as radio, live interviews, TV, and social media. By our hands, we can disrupt the demand for drugs and remedy the cycle of addiction.

These efforts could begin in prison as well. We could conduct blood donation campaigns involving the inmates. This will be surely provide a boost of positive energy to everyone, especially us inmates, as we begin to realise that we, despite of our current circumstances, are able to still contribute back to our society. 

We would gain a sense of responsibility towards our fellow men and society. 

Most of the time, many inmates, such as me, feel nothing but dread and hopelessness, which turns us back to our old, damaging habits but by positively influencing the inmates, we go through a character rehabilitation and at the same time are able to save lives.

Parents, teachers, the media and public should band together in tackling drug abuse, it does not fall on the government’s hands only to tackle this. 

Parents should not view drugs as taboo and have conversations of their dangers over dinner. Meanwhile in schools, students should be educated on the dangers of drug misuse as early as primary level onwards. 

There are very few messages and warnings in the media, in TV and on the radio, on the danger of drugs. Even in Channel News Asia, there are no documentaries that shed light on the dangers of drug abuse.

Meanwhile, youths, even those that are educated, expose themselves to recreational uses of these drugs, and exhibiting sensation seeking, risk-taking, impulsivity and anxiety, without realising the severity of their actions. 

Some even resort to such behaviour due to peer pressure or for the sake of impressing the wrong people. We have to reach out to them, in all the ways we can.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s office Ms, Indranee Rajah once said, “If you’re developing policy and programmes, you must know what’s on people mind, must know what are they feeling and every individual story gives you a deeper insight that gives you a more informed basis on which to do things to improves lives.”

Also, the Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Dr. Koh Poh Koon has mentioned, “By hearing more personalised stories, I think it can help us understand how we can mitigate some of the circumstances where some people seem to fall through the cracks and then on, craft ways in which we can also help to lift them up”.

The Government had, for many years, invested significantly in the prevention of drug abuse and in the treatment and rehabilitation of drugs addicts. 

Despite the imposition of mandatory death penalty, a sizeable number of drugs mules are still being caught yearly.

The drug syndicates are clearly still able to continue with their modus operandi, despite the significant hurdles placed by the Government for them to do business. They are able to do so due because people get manipulated by them.

A quick review of the profiles of these drug mules would reveal that most of them come from the lower income groups, where their families may have not been able to cultivate them in a measurable way and thus were prone to being misused by the wrong connection.

They are not the masterminds, they are just vulnerable to the promise of high rewards for easy work, seeking an escape out of poverty, and thus offer themselves to assist the drug syndicates.

I humbly suggest that this could be an area of opportunity, a ‘low hanging fruit’, where more should be done (and can be done) to reach out to these potential drug mules. 

By doing so, there is a greater likelihood that there would be a reduction in the number of those who agree to become mules, thus lower incarceration rates.

Myself and the other drug mules currently in death row are willing to give our commitment to assist the CNB in any of these initiatives mentioned above, whether by way of TV programmes, documentaries, or newspaper articles to share our story and those of others we know from our time in remand and on the death row of how:

1) The drug syndicates identify and approach potential drug mules for their nefarious activities

2) The false assurances and promises that are made by syndicates to lure drug mule or allay the fears of drug mules.

3) The baseless assumptions that drug mules have when embarking on drug runs knowing or unknowingly for the syndicates

4) The certainty of being caught in Singapore for drug trafficking activities

5) The drug mules are regarded as dispensable by the drug syndicates. Not only do the drug syndicates cause irreparable harm to drug addicts and their family, but to the drug mules as well.

I humbly suggest that such initiatives to warn and educate potential drug mules are likely to be effective when fronted by those who have been caught and convicted.

I believe God has a purpose and has His will in my life. This journey of my life has taught me to seek His will more than of mine.

I have aging parents who needs me and I have my responsibilities to fulfil towards my family and society as well. My family has always been there for me and I humbly pray that I would be given a second chance to be there for them when they need me the most.

I feel ashamed and I deeply apologise for my lack of self-awareness, moral and public responsibility. 

I take this final opportunity to express my utmost regret and I beg your Excellency to be merciful and compassionate and spare my life by commuting my sentence of death to one of life imprisonment. I shall be grateful forever, in thought and action.

 

Pannir Selvam Pranthanam is a Malaysian sentenced to death in Singapore for drug trafficking. This November 7, 2018 letter to Singapore president Halimah Yacob was provided by his family who said it was “written by Pannir on scraps of paper in prison and has been slightly edited for structure & grammar. The original notes can be seen on savepannir.info.”





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