We were very disappointed and frustrated with ourselves, going back home. We were not even talking to each other and could not even sleep the whole night. One of our family member was dying, and we could not do anything about it.
The next day, on the 22nd of May, Mr. Surendran was supposed to meet Pannir at 2pm in the prison. However, even though we presented his details on Tuesday, 21st May, a day prior, we did not receive any approval for his visit. It was almost 12pm in the afternoon, and after asking them a couple of times, SPS told us that they will not allow Mr. Surendran to meet Pannir. When asked why, the whole management of SPS said they don’t know the reason and there might not be one, in fact.
Mr.Kuhanesh, the officer in-charge of prison visits, informed us that the approval comes from the Ministry of Home Affairs of Singapore. And so, I asked for the contact details of the person I can reach out to in the Ministry of Home Affairs. Upon asking this, they seem stunned and replied that they will get back to me.
A moment later, they called us for a meeting and this time, the same officers said that the approval for prison visits comes from a “3rd party” and he was not sure who that was. It was surprising that they had no name whatsoever for this 3rd party they were referring to (or were unwilling to actually disclose the truth, which seemed more likely). We then came to the dreaded realisation that this is how they have been brainwashing all the death row inmates’ families. The prison care team that was supposed to help us were also cohorts of SPS’ management, whom voluntarily gave us misleading and incorrect answers, while beating around the bush, so that we will not be successful in saving Pannir. SPS’ system, its components, and its participants, are designed to operate to ensure that mounting a defence for incarcerated minor drug offenders would be near to impossible .
With all the obstacles that we were facing, on the other hand, my siblings and I were trying to remember each point that were told to us by our Malaysian Lawyer, Mr. Surendran, on what Pannir should say in the court for his defence the next day. No pen or paper was allowed during our visits to see Pannir, so each of us remembered one to two points to tell Pannir when we went to visit him that day. It was very infuriating and upsetting to acknowledge the fact that my brother is fighting for his life and the Changi Prison officers are not letting his own lawyer meet him. We managed to remember and tell Pannir all the points he needed to know, and he did jot it all down but his face was very sad and dull because up until the very last moment, he could not get a proper legal representation for himself.
On the morning of 23rd of May, Thursday, we were unsure on what we should do and were still praying in our hearts because we failed to find a Singaporean lawyer. That morning, Pannir walked in to the visiting room with his breakfast. It has almost been 6 years since we last seen him eating in person. Our puffy, swollen eyes swelled with tears. Pannir was thinking that he would fail his case that afternoon and this was the last meal that he could take in front of his family. Our hearts sank, sorrow filled the air and our lungs. Tears streamed out, as we mourned for our brother & son who was going to be dead soon.
The feeling we had was unexplainable – grief, powerlessness, frustration. We were only able to touch Pannir’s hand through the thick glass that was parting us. I began to briefly recollect all the memories I had of my childhood, of how we would all eat together with Pannir around a big table, how we would run around and play and how we would happily watch a movie after the meal. Back in the prison, the realisation dawned that those distant days might be lost forever and this is how it’s all going to end.
Pannir told us that he had little to none sleep for the past week. Today, he was to face the judge at the court and had started preparing for it from last night. He managed to catch some rest for a few hours, but woke back up at 3am to practice how he was going to talk at the court, in front of the judge to defend himself. That morning was filled with so much anxiety and pressure because this was his last chance to prepare his defence, prove that he was a victim, and get a stay on the execution. Even though we were unsure on what was going to happen next, we kept praying and singing praises to Lord Almighty.
Pannir was a talented individual, with a strong proclivity for music and singing. He was requesting us to sing Christian songs along with him, while he was playing the beats to those songs by tapping on the table. The visiting cell filled with hopeful songs and prayers. Tired of worrying and feeling scared and anxious all the time, we decided, at that moment, to let go of the grief we were feeling, just so we could sing more songs with him. However, our time with him was running out and we had to leave the prison to go to the Supreme Court for the hearing.
We remained silent, contemplating on our fates in this world and the turn of events that led us all here. We can’t digest the fact that we are going to lose our brother in this terrible prison and country, where there was no respect shown for Pannir rights, his family’s rights, and as it seemed, human rights as a whole. We trembled in fear as we headed over to the court, each step we took felt like moving a ton of bricks. We were too afraid to step into the court. Pannir had no legal representative, in a foreign land, in a foreign court, and has to represent himself now. He had a solemn look on his face, as though he was ready to face what may come.
The courtroom opened at 2.10pm and we entered in. We met the Singaporean Lawyer, Mr. M. Ravi, there for the 1st time. He was asking us details of the case and bolstered us with some faith. We were a little relieved to hear his words. We found ourselves a place to seat, and within minutes, the chamber became full, as members of the public, the press, lawyers and chambering students populated the room. All of them wanted to know about what will be the final verdict for Pannir and whether he will get a stay of execution.
I think God answered our prayers, or whatever inexplicable forces there were were finally working for us, for something wonderful happened. We saw the lawyers, Mr. Surendran and Ms. Latheefa Koya, plus 2 other lawyers stepping into the court. The 2 other lawyers turned out to be Mr Too Xing Ji and Mr. Lee Ji En, and they walked inside the courtroom and volunteered to argue the stay of execution and application for Pannir. It was a miracle that these lawyers stepped forward to help Pannir at the eleventh hour. With guidance from Malaysian lawyers, Mr. Surendran and Ms. Latheefa Koya, the 2 other lawyers then began presenting their arguments in legal terms and making a defence for Pannir for the Honourable Judge that was present.
The court was given a 5-minute break, and everything just unfolded like we were watching a movie. With my own eyes, I saw 8 lawyers gathered together to discuss on what are the next grounds and arguments they should bring up next, in order to win the case. Lawyer M. Ravi carried that special positive energy that he greeted us with the whole time. He couldn’t hold himself back. He kept walking and giving ideas to the group of lawyers whom were sitting at the lawyer table. Finally, after hours of battle, Pannir’s lawyers, Mr. Too Xing Ji and Mr. Lee Ji En won the case and managed to get a stay on the execution and to file a challenge on the clemency process as the next step. This was the moment we realised that God had never abandoned us. At the end of the court’s session, my family and I were given a chance to touch Pannir’s hands, and feel the warmth they emitted, after years, through a small opening in the glass barrier, before he was brought back to the prison once again.