M’sian Man On Death Row Shares How He Was Saved Right Before An Execution In Singapore

M’sian Man On Death Row In Singapore Shares His Side Of The Story

Often, we take the time we have with our family for granted.

Mr P. Pannir Selvan is a Malaysian man on death row in Singapore for drug trafficking, and when he was told of the date of his execution, he was left with a mere week to spend with his family.

Pannir was finally granted a stay of execution just a day before he was due to hang on 24 May, partly thanks to their efforts to help him secure a second chance at life. They continue to support him wholeheartedly in his bid to avoid execution — some have even quit their jobs to do so.

On 31 Jul, Malaysiakini published a letter by Pannir entitled “On my birthday, from death row in Singapore”, which tells of his ordeal in prison and subsequent stay of execution. We summarise the important parts of his story below.

Young Pannir wished to be a pilot

P. Pannir Selvam was born on 31 July 1987, which makes him 32 years old this year. His father is a lorry driver and his mother is a housewife — he has five siblings in total.

Pannir shares that he harboured dreams of becoming a pilot when he was 9. He probably couldn’t have foreseen his fate back then.


After being arrested for smuggling heroin back in 3 Sep 2014, he was sentenced to death and had a subsequent appeal dismissed.


Following this, Pannir got baptised and rechristened as Paul Silas.

Pannir shares that he prayed and prayed, in the hopes that his death sentence would somehow be reduced.

What he required was a certificate of cooperation issued by the Attorney-General Chambers (AGC), which would prove that he had assisted police with his investigations. He claims that it still has not been issued to him.

Plea of clemency rejected by our President

Pannir shares that before he could write to the AGC requesting for this, the call of death arrived at his cell on the morning of 17 May.


A group of 7 prison officers had arrived, as per practice, to inform Pannir of his impending execution. His bid to be spared the death penalty had been rejected by the President of Singapore.

As is wont of anyone who knows that their fate is sealed, Pannir thought of his family.

He feared for them, wondering how they would cope with his impending departure from life itself.


The days after that were thus spent writing numerous letters to them. Letters to prepare his family to deal with the aftermath of Pannir, leaving them forever.

As he penned the letters, he shares that every word he wrote had to be carefully chosen, but Pannir “could not find (his) words nor the will to do so”.

Pannir was not ready to die.

The longest week of his life

Pannir’s family was allowed to visit him on Saturday (25 May). He had to put on a tough exterior despite his worries — as he decided to remain strong for them. However, the shock of the announcement still lingered and they needed time to sort out their thoughts.

The following day was better. There were laughter and cries as the family shared memories together.

At the same time, they had not given up and were looking for lawyers to help them out.

This would probably be the longest week of their lives.

Dealing with less than 3 hours of sleep a night, Pannir faced obstacles all throughout the week as he looked to secure a lawyer. His Malaysian lawyer was unable to see him. He claims that access was “revoked” for seemingly “no reason”.

But none of these obstacles were more painful than realising how little time he had left with his parents.

A last minute miracle

On 23 May – the last day before the execution would take place – Pannir entered the Court of Appeal to find that two Malaysian lawyers based in Singapore had arrived to help him, right at the stroke of death.

With their help, a stay of execution was somehow granted, thanks to a technicality relating to the date of rejection for clemency by the President.

However, this stay is not permanent, and Pannir remains on death row. Pannir continues to appeal for a stay of execution to challenge the President’s rejection of his clemency.

He also continues to request for the certificate of cooperation.

Pannir ends his letter with a rumination which is likely to resonate with anyone who has ever stared death in the face,

I don’t know if I deserve to live, but I do know that I don’t deserve to die

A petition titled “Save Pannir” has been started by Pannir’s family. If you’d like to help him, you may do so by clicking here.

An unwavering stance on the death penalty

Our government’s firm stance regarding the death penalty for drug trafficking – in particular hard drugs like heroin – remains the same.

Others believe that hanging drug traffickers is inhumane and does not get to the root of the issue — traffickers only do the bidding of drug kingpins, and could be granted mercy.

Malaysia has attempted to plead for clemency on three occasions for Malaysians sentenced to hang in Singapore, but these pleas were ultimately rejected.

Whatever the argument, the fact is that these are real lives Singapore is sentencing to death, and sometimes in talking about the theoretical, we can forget that there are families at stake.

Losing a family member is a grief that families have to carry for the rest of their lives.

Why Pannir’s plea for clemency may still be rejected

However, there is also the issue of Singapore’s sovereignty.

If a non-Singaporean breaks the law in Singapore, the government has to be able to punish them in accordance with Singaporean law, or risk a precedent where foreigners can plead to their governments to save them.

This would cause Singapore to lose their reputation as a drug-free country governed by rule of law, according to Minister of Law K. Shanmugam,

(It is) simply not doable to keep asking Singapore not to carry out the penalties imposed by the courts.

Ultimately, the government cannot afford to waver from their position on the death penalty, no matter what other countries say.

At this point, only legal recourse can save Pannir from death.

What do you think about this case? Should Pannir be granted mercy, or be subject to the laws of our land?

Featured image adapted from Malaysiakini.

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