The following is a letter written by Pannir Selvam, a death row inmate, about his father. TJC is publishing this with the permission of Pannir’s family. Learn more about Pannir’s case and the campaign to save him at Save Pannir.
He was still a long way from home when his father saw him, his heart was filled with pity, he ran and threw his arms around. His son kissed him.Luke 15:20
I grew up in a very Christian faithful family. My father was a church leader before becoming a pastor. I can’t recall any Sunday service that my family missed. My father is a good dad and very strict. As he is an important member of the church, all eyes will always be on us, on everything his children do and say. We carry his reputation, but still, there was a lot of love and care within the church’s community.
He is a very caring father. We had our financial troubles, yet he ensured that our needs are always met. He always ensures that there is an insurance policy for each family member, as well as enough funds for our further education. I have never seen him argue with my mother, but he is very strict with us. My mother is very humble and introverted. They got married early, at the age of 17 years old. My mother lost her parents at the age of six or seven years old; her sister took care of her until my father came into her life. All my mum knows is my father and her six kids.
Once every year my father would bring us on holiday. Somewhere like Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang, Genting Highland, Port Dickson, Pangkor island, Johor Bahru, and many other places around Malaysia. We would have a good time, but the time he spends with us is limited as he is hard-working, and he has to get back to work to earn the means to support my family.
During school holidays, I used to follow my father on his working days as a lorry driver to send goods to KL, JB, or Seremban. It is a very hard job. The only reason for me to follow him was to eat whatever I want if we stop for lunch or dinner. Those were good times. When I wanted to help him pull the canvas off under the hot sun, the skin on the palm of my hands was torn off by the heat. My father would then say “Let me do it, you see how hard I work, you must study hard so you do not need to suffer like me.”
However, after I got older, during the school holidays, I will get my father’s permission to work. He didn’t mind if I wanted to be independent. He let me work so that I can know it’s not easy to earn money and I must be honest in everything I do. He always upholds moral values and expects us to do so. Sometimes, I wonder why he has to be tough and meticulous, even in small things, but later I realised he had a big responsibility to raise us.
My father was financially stable until he stopped all his transportation work and went to Bible College to become a pastor. It was God’s calling in his life. He must be have been torn in between when making the choice. My father is fine with enduring hardship but he knows there are consequences for every action and it could severely impact his relationship with his family.
Things aren’t the same anymore. I thought things would get better but it got worse, financially and in our relationships as well. My family struggled financially and there was no income apart from the church allowance of around RM 1000 per month. It was not enough for my family of eight people, four of us were still in school and my elder sister just completed her SPM and was looking to pursue tertiary education. My mum had to take care of us through this hardship.
For three years, every week on Friday my father would travel from Kajang to Ipoh, to be with us, but his time was very limited. Once he reached Ipoh on Friday afternoon, he would prepare to attend and conduct the church’s Friday prayers in the evening. On Saturday, he would be busy with some church activities, or if he has some free time, he would do some quick cash delivery jobs such as delivering food around Ipoh or to nearby places. He did not want to let go of any chance to make extra cash. He is a very honest and hardworking man. On Sunday as usual, Sunday service in the morning and around evening, he would take the bus back to Kajang. That’s what happened for three years.
Finally, on one fateful day, the church had to let my dad go independently. At that moment, the best part of my life for the past 15 years was just gone like that. He did not have another choice, his decisions have had a big impact on our lives — emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. My relationship with my father became distant. We seldom talk, my father tried his best to talk but I couldn’t bring myself to listen. When my father tried to talk, it only ended up as an argument between us. I didn’t like to listen to my dad anymore and he just didn’t want to make the situation any worse.
However, there came a time when I returned to my faith in God as I was a lost son — The Prodigal Son. I am grateful to God for blessing my life with my father, for all his struggles and sacrifices, and for all the experiences and struggles I went through. I learn something from everything that happens in my life. I am thankful for the loving family that God has blessed me.
Happy Father’s Day.