It was unexpected. The letter of execution for Pannir Selvam came in the month of Syawal. Moreover, it was a long weekend due to the Wesak day holiday on 19th May 2019, hence, most of the lawyers were out of their office.
On the 18th May 2019 (Saturday), our first conversation with Singapore Prison Services (SPS) started with a SPS representative, Mr. Yang, and it was for Pannir’s funeral arrangement. While reading a script from a form, Mr. Yang requested for the details of 2 family members to collect Pannir’s body after the execution, and asked us to prepare 2 pair of clothes for the photo taking session. He then presented 2 choices to us – either we bring his body back or hand it over to SPS to do the final arrangement and funeral rites. Mr Yang was expecting us to give him an answer on the spot and requested me to sign the acknowledgement forms, which I promptly refused. We were also given a prison care team from SPS to consult with and act as our guides there.
On the 19th May, my whole family was there, visiting Pannir. The prison care team which consisted of Indian from SPS was there too, and was following us everywhere we went which was actually annoying. They were not helpful at all. When we asked SPS why this team was given to us, their answer was that “they are to help you”, but the team did not want to help us with simple requests. When we asked for a pen, the SPS special team told us that they had no permission to give us pens! I am not sure what kind of service the special team provides and what’s motives SPS had for giving us such a team, but it seemed like they were gathering intel on us.
We waited for the next working day, which was 21st May (Tuesday), to get all the procedures started. I had passed the details of Pannir’s Malaysian lawyer, Mr. Surendran and Jeanette, Commissioner of Oath (COO) to SPS, as according to them, anyone who wanted to visit Pannir could do so, but we would have to submit their details on that day itself (which we did at 8am, Tuesday) to the prison management. They would require at least one (1) working day to process the visiting permissions of that person. They took the details and claimed that they will get back to us on this as soon as possible. However, even till the very last moment Mr.Surendran was not given the permission to visit Pannir.
Meanwhile, we were tirelessly searching for an attorney to represent Pannir at Court in Singapore. The remaining lawyers in Singapore were reluctant to step forward because of the threat of action that will be taken against them. Pannir was also in the process of filing an application to the court of Singapore on Thursday to call for a stay on the execution. However, the process required a Commissioner of Oath to affirm the affidavit, with the help of a lawyer, before submitting it.
At this very crucial moment, no lawyers were willing to assist us. SPS were well-informed of our difficulty, but they chose not to inform us of the availability of a prison Commissioner of Oath. By God’s grace, with the contact from Mr.Surendran, we managed to get in touch with Jeanette, a Commissioner of Oath in Singapore to affirm Pannir’s affidavit but she was at Indonesia at that time and she could not promise that she’ll be in Singapore on time. We were very sad and felt like this was the end of the line. We went to visit Pannir again. Our faces were dull and swollen, from crying too much and too long, and we were not sure what to tell him because we failed to prepare a lawyer for his defence and to affirm his affidavit. We were so disappointed because Pannir must have been expecting us, his family, to meet him with a solution, at the time when he needed us the most.
We were begging other lawyers to help us. We were powerless and were disappointed with ourselves regarding the unexpected situation at that moment. We felt like the whole world was against us and our heads and voices were being buried low in darkness, misery and hopelessness. I tried my luck by contacting Jeanette one last time, begging her to drop by the prison just to affirm the affidavit. It’s was a miracle that she agreed to come on that day. She said that she make way from the airport to Changi prison and affirm the affidavit immediately.
We were relieved and beyond grateful to God that we finally got a Commissioner of Oath to affirm out the court papers. A few hours before Jeanette was due to reach the prison, SPS said all the visiting rooms they had were occupied, hence, they had no room ready for Jeanette, and thus, could not accommodate her. This was ridiculous and went beyond absurdity. Imagine this, Pannir is on the death row, his execution is scheduled to take place on the 24th of May and yet they are telling us that a room will only be available for the lawyers and Commissioner of Oath to walk in on the 22nd May, Wednesday, where it would be too late by then. It was heartless. Jeanette arrived at around 3.30 pm and managed to affirm out the affidavit by 4.30pm.
Our heartiest gratitude to Jeanette, we will always be grateful to you because you did not bother about the inconveniences you had to go through and chose to help us out in a crucial moment. Once the affirmation was done, the prison has to then submit the affirmedd affidavit to the court. But, instead of doing that immediately, the officers puzzled with the court papers and Pannir was told “..it’s was almost 5pm, the court will be closed and so they will only be able to submit the court papers tomorrow.” Pannir suggested that since the matter was really urgent, they could fax the document first and request someone to be on standby at court. The officers agreed, and Pannir’s court papers made it.