How to deal with a ‘sovereign’ person | campus.sg

You may have seen or heard about the video circulating around social media about a woman causing commotion at Shunfu Market for refusing to wear a mask. This wasn’t the first time she was caught flouting the rules either – she’s the very same “Karen” that was fined not long ago for not wearing a mask at a market (and filming the officers).

In the recent videos, she was heard claiming to be a “sovereign”, and that “it means I have nothing to do with the police, it means I have no contract with the police. They have no say over me.”

Naturally, the word “sovereign” became the most searched word on the internet. So what is a “sovereign” and more importantly, how do you respond to them?

What are Sovereign citizens?

In multiple videos that were circulated online on May 3, the Singaporean woman who claimed to be a “sovereign” said that “people don’t even know what a sovereign is”. 

While a sovereign citizen sounds like someone from royalty, it actually refers to someone without any allegiance to any higher power and believes they are above all law since they are “free citizens”.

These “free citizens” pick and choose whatever form of rule or law they like to justify their behaviours and exempt themselves from the law – it’s as if they believe they’re not citizens in the country they reside in. Sovereign citizens believe that the government can only rule by consent.

Even a sovereign can’t simply take someone else’s phone!

How to respond to them

Legal authorities react to sovereign citizens with annoyance and amusement. Here are some of the excuses they give for not complying to the rules, and how you can respond:

“As a free person, I do not recognise the jurisdiction you have”

Actually, the government has the power to compel people to do what it says because it has police powers and prisons to back up its demands. There’s nothing anyone can do to stop that from happening – even tourists are subject to the law of the land.

Singapore is its own sovereign, which means that everyone within its borders has to abide by its rules. You can’t have multiple “sovereign” authorities in the same jurisdiction. The only possible exceptions are embassies or high commissions which are their own recognised sovereign entities within another country and their own sets of rules – but that doesn’t mean that ambassadors or high commissioners are free to commit a crime either. These countries have to come into an agreement with the Singapore government in order to set up their own embassies.

If she claims “sovereignty” in Singapore and she’s not a recognised country, she may be more correctly labelled “stateless”.

“I have no contract with the police. They have no say over me”

Not wearing a mask is punishable by a fine in Singapore, and while that “sovereign citizen” claims she doesn’t recognise Singapore law and the police, she can’t claim she’s exempt from punishment under civil law. Basically anyone she comes in contact with can take her to court for endangering their health (especially the person she allegedly assaulted). Since it’s a matter of private law between two individuals, there’s no police involvement.

“I’m not subject to any local laws and I’m free of any legal constraints”

As a free person, they believe they’re exempt from legal constraints, like paying taxes. What they fail to grasp is that they want all the protection of the government but not pay for it. Ask who she would call if there was a fire in her house, or if she got really sick and had to go to the emergency room.

The other reason people claim to be a sovereign is because they’re in debt and refuse to pay up.

“I am a Sovereign. I am ‘We the People”’

She’s probably quoting “We the People” which refers to the very first sentence of the United States Constitution. Interestingly, this phrase actually means that the government is given the power by every citizen.

Besides, she cannot claim she’s a sovereign citizen since she has a Singapore passport and/or NRIC – Singapore doesn’t allow dual citizenship.

What happened to her?

In the video, she claimed that she wasn’t warned or fined for a previous incident – however, on the contrary, she had been “swiftly apprehended” and also “caught and fined”. She has since been remanded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).

So that’s the end of this “People’s Republic of Karen”.

Remember: Whether you’re a Singaporean, tourist, alien, Wakanda citizen or a delusional person, the rule of the local law applies. For many “sovereign citizens”, confronting law enforcement with their legal theories is only a performance – in her case, it earned her stardom on social media.