Singer Santesh Kumar lends voice to debate on death penalty

KUALA LUMPUR: Singer Santesh Kumar has released a music single to create awareness about the death penalty issue.

Called "Arah Tuju", the rap single also urges all Malaysians to have mercy on death row inmates and to forgive them.

The lyrics of the song were written by Pannir Selvam, a Malaysian who is on death row in Singapore’s Changi prison.

Santesh - who is known for the 2018 Malay hit song "Amalina" - said that he agreed to sing the song after hearing about Pannir's plight.

"I had never known about or discussed the issue before. The song is about the plight or those on death row. They only want to be given a second chance and be forgiven," he said.

Santesh added that many are a victim of their situation and have been manipulated by others because of poverty and social issues.

Speaking at the launch of the single on Saturday (April 17) organised by Sebaran Kasih, an NGO to assist underprivileged communities, he added that there was a risk in agreeing to the project as the death penalty is a controversial issue.

He said that his fans might question him about it, but added that he believes that the song will be able to change the perceptions of society of those on death row.

"The lyrics are very poetic and have a very deep meaning. That is also why I agreed to sing the song," he said.

He said the whole process of singing and producing the music video took about six months.

There are more than 1,300 people on death row in Malaysian jails, with the majority of them convicted for drug trafficking.

Pannir's sister P.Angelia said that he was excited about the project, and had been writing songs about the death penalty in English, Malay and Tamil.

"He wants to fully utilise his time while he is around to ensure that no one else falls into the same trap as him," said Angelia, who is the founder of Sebaran Kasih.

Pannir, 33, was convicted in 2017 of trafficking 51.84gm of diamorphine or heroin at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Sept 3, 2014.

He was due to be executed in May 2019 but received a last minute reprieve after the Court of Appeal granted a stay for him to file a judicial review to challenge the clemency process.

Singapore President Halimah Yacob had previously rejected a clemency appeal from Pannir’s family.

Pannir's appeal for leave to commence the judicial review was heard before the Court of Appeal last month, after the High Court dismissed it last year.

After hearing submissions from the lawyers, the Court of Appeal reserved judgment on the appeal.

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