Singapore—Malaysian Pannir Selvam Pranthanam arrested in Singapore in September 2014 with almost 52 grams of drugs found on him wrote a letter to show what life is like as a death-row convict.

The letter published in the local media is his way to reach out to the world and to show gratitude to his family.

He wrote about the pain he had caused his family, and how this is more painful than the death penalty imposed on him, itself.

“All my family ever did was love me for who I am and be there for me and all I have given them is burden and pain that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

This realisation hurts more than the sentence could ever itself.”

There has been one advantage to his incarceration, however, that his relationship with his family and with God, he says, has gotten healed.

“Miraculously, the only upside to my current predicament is that my relationship with my family and God is being healed and it has been getting stronger past these five years. 

Yes, there were times when I was down, but I got back up, only to fail and stand back up again but all that now, I’ve realised, is a process which I have to go through, to be a better person, to grow in faith and to seek God’s will and purpose in my life.”

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Mr Pranthanam, who is the son of a pastor and is said to have been baptized into the Christian faith a few months ago, also wrote about what incredible mental strengthen it takes to live in jail after a death sentence.

“In here you are only for yourself and only God is your solace if you are a religious person. If you’re not a believer, it’s going to take an immense amount of mental strength and fortitude to find the light of hope in this darkness.

To think what lies ahead for us (death row inmates) is not something encouraging to do, for you will be torn apart in the war between hope and reality.”

Originally from Ipoh, Mr Pranthanam had worked as a security guard in Singapore. The court sentenced him with the death penalty after convicted as a drug courier in 2017.

Earlier this year, after his family worked to get information on drug mule recruiters, they sent their information to the Attorney-General in Singapore and sought for a substantive assistance certificate for Pranthanam. It meant he would receive caning and a life sentence.

On May 17, his family received letters stating the denial of his appeal for clemency, and that his execution is set for execution on May 24.

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On May 21, Mr Pranthanam applied for a clemency challenge and to defer his execution.

On May 23, the day before he is executed, the Court of Appeal suspended the execution.

Mr Pranthanam wrote about daily life in jail, from the constant surveillance, the lack of a pillow, the food, to the humiliating body checks.

“…you would have to strip and get naked five days a week whenever we entered the yard. There will be two officers at the yard’s gate entrance to see your bare body and genitalia twice — in and out — and you will feel humiliated. 

Before they take your life itself, they will try to take everything else they can from you –- your freedom, dignity, rights, dreams, hope, value, and respect.

Everything, like a vacuum cleaner, is sucked away before your life is ended. That why I mentioned earlier that the others who are not in our shoes, they don’t know what it is like.” 

Pranthanam wrote that he wanted to show what life is like as a death-row convict, and he ends his writing on a particularly poignant note, but one with courage and determination to find himself.

“Up until April 2019, I have seen 22 people hanged, and in many ways it took a toll on the rest of us, inmates.  People would change, as the executions would carry on until it’s their turn. 

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They would lose sleep, some heavily rely on medication, some become resentful, reserved and taciturn, some even forget how to laugh, some would lose their minds under pressure. 

They just snap like that as they can’t take it any longer. They start to talk to the wall, hear voices, have nightmares.

Some even forget to clean themselves for weeks, lose their appetites (maybe their will to even eat), their social and communication skills fade away and some even refuse to see their own family who comes to visit.

Amidst all of this, I have to draw a line, find a balance between everything, between hope and reality, in spirituality, in moral values, in good and the bad, and in almost in everything. 

I have to know where I am standing. If I have failed to find that balance, then whatever I’ve been through or learned these past years would amount to nothing.

In the midst of all these struggles and troubles, I must not lose myself but strive ever harder, to find myself.”/ TISG

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